The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), UK’s nonrenewable energy watchdog, has disclosed its plans for a licensing round to back carbon storage amid efforts of the oil and gas industry to decrease its environmental impact and reach net zero CO2 emissions in the next three decades.
The fossil fuel regulator has supported plans to increase the role of carbon storage in the UK. It will commence bidding auctions with the aim to give licensing for the capture of 20-30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030. Its most recent corporate plan, published a week ago, has set out to do this in the next five years.
Carbon capture refers to the process of catching carbon before it enters ambient air and usually keeping it deep underground for hundreds of years in order to decrease pollution caused by heavily polluting industries (.e.g exploration for fossil fuel).
Shortly before the announcement, the NSTA had granted two CO2 storage licenses to BP and Equinor in the Southern part of the North Sea near Humberside. In the eight years in which the licenses are valid, the companies will have to perform seismic surveys to obtain data from drilling wells and four storage sites.
Six storage licenses are now active in the country and the NSTA reckons they could come by 2025. In combination with existing licenses, they could provide storage for 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Yet, the government currently only provides $.6.2 million (£5 million) for carbon capture research as stated in the energy security strategy from last month.
Those $6.2 million are part of a $470m (£375m) funding for innovative energy technologies, $300 m (£240m) of which focused on the production of hydrogen. In addition to the licensing round, the NSTA has pledged to also regulate emissions performance to see the industry exceed its commitment to decreasing emissions by 50% by 2030.
The watchdog said it will additionally focus on other targets as per the 2021 North Sea Transition Deal and make sure that half of the investment in local energy projects is aimed at UK suppliers. NSTA’s budget for 2022-2023 is estimated at $48.6 million (£38.9 million).