Twelve companies have been awarded a total of 20 licenses to develop carbon dioxide (CO2) storage offshore, in Britain’s first licensing round for such projects, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said in Thursday.
Britain aims to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which involves filtering carbon-warming carbon from industrial smokestacks before it hits the atmosphere and storing it underground, to keep the 20 million to 30 million tons of CO2 in 2030.
Injection into the first storage sites, which consist of a mix of depleted oil and gas fields and porous rock formations, could begin within six years, the NSTA said, but the first operators must obtain leases and approvals.
The new licenses add to some of the other planned CCS projects that are part of the government’s pilot scheme and for which negotiations on commercial details are ongoing.
CCS technology has struggled for years to achieve commercial viability, but momentum is building as the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States increases pressure on European governments to support energy transfer technologies.
Some of the 13 areas initially offered have been divided to reach 20, an NSTA spokeswoman said.
Nineteen companies applied for licenses.
Enquest has been granted four licenses, a company spokesperson said.
Neptune Energy, which by 2030 plans to store more carbon than it emits directly and indirectly, has been awarded three licenses, the company’s spokesman said.
Spirit Energy, whose largest shareholder is Centrica, has been granted one licence, it said. Perenco has also been granted licenses, said a company spokesperson.
The names of the other successful bidders will not be announced until they officially accept the award, an NSTA spokesperson added. Eni and Equinor said they had applied, but did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shell declined to comment.
While CCS can help carbon-heavy industries cut their emissions, it has yet to be deployed on a large scale anywhere in the world.
Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions amount to around 417 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2022.
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