North Sea ‘treasure map’ to support UK carbon capture industry

A ‘treasure map’ of what lies beneath the North Sea is set to be created to support the UK’s carbon capture and storage sector, as part of the governments ammendment to their Energy Bill, introduced to Parliament in July last year.

Companies already at the forefront of this technology and licensed to drill in the North Sea will have to report what they find to the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which will develop the most comprehensive picture yet of the geological area’s make-up.

This information can then be used to quantify how much carbon capture and storage could be possible for investors. The government hope that this could attract more companies to the UK, supporting as many as 50,000 green jobs by 2030.

“The UK is in prime position to become a world leader in carbon capture and storage – a whole new industry that could boost our energy security, help cut our own emissions and those of our European neighbours and create thousands of jobs for the future,” said Grant Shapps MP, secretary of state for energy security and net zero. “By working with the brightest and best who are already out in the North Sea, we can grow our economy by building the treasure map needed to unlock the full potential of this geological goldmine.”

“Carbon storage is essential to reaching net zero, and the industry requires a wealth of reliable information to select sites to store millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases,” added Stuart Payne, NSTA chief executive. “The NSTA welcomes these new powers to collect this vital data and share it with the industry as it leads the orderly transition and provides thousands of skilled jobs.”

Carbon capture and storage involves separating carbon dioxide from industry and storing it safely under the seabed in spaces left by oil and gas extraction. It is believed that, thanks to its geological make-up, the UK is well placed to benefit from this and create a new industry.

Estimates suggest that there may be enough space underneath the UK’s oceans – including its old oil and gas fields – to store up to 78 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent to the weight of around 15 billion elephants, and as much carbon dioxide as produced by up to 6 million cars on the road.

Michael Tholen, director of policy and sustainability at Offshore Energies UK, welcomed the news, and said that an accurate map of the UK’s potential for this innovative sector could help to nurture a new wave of businesses and jobs.

“Offshore Energies UK produces leading data and analysis that informs the offshore energy sector and the public. We know such data is essential to support the long-term investments and policy needed to ensure the UK remains an attractive place to do business. Therefore, we support this new initiative and the wider aims of the Energy Bill, which is needed to provide the sector with the legislative frameworks to unlock new potential in hydrogen, CCUS and floating offshore wind. We look forward to working with all parties and our members to ensure this exciting new industry is a success.”

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