OIL and gas majors have underlined their confidence in the feasibility of storing huge amounts of carbon dioxide beneath the North Sea to help secure big cuts in harmful emissions.

Five of the biggest players in the industry have formed a partnership to lead work on a project that it is hoped could play a key role in the development of carbon capture, storage and usage (CCUS) technology in the UK.

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The partnership plans to install the infrastructure that would be required to transport carbon dioxide that is a by-product of industries such as chemicals production for storage in the Endurance reservoir.

Lead by BP, the members reckon Endurance is the most mature large-scale reservoir of its kind suitable for carbon dioxide storage on the offshore UK Continental Shelf.

The partnership believes the reservoir would be capable of holding enough carbon dioxide to help support the decarbonisation of nearly 50 per cent of the UK’s industrial emissions.

It lies around 55 miles offshore and a mile below the seabed.

The Northern Endurance Partnership has applied for UK Government funding to accelerate the development of a pipeline system that could be used to handle the emissions from two big industrial clusters in North East England.

The pipelines will take carbon dioxide from industrial plants and hydrogen fuel-generating facilities on Humberside and Teesside to the Endurance reservoir.

It is expected the pipelines would form part of a network that could help confirm that CCUS has a big part to play in support of the drive to achieve net zero.

Critics have noted that however compelling the theoretical appeal of CCUS may be the technology has not yet been deployed at scale in the UK.

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The Northern Endurance Partnership expects the schemes served by its pipelines will be operational in 2026.

The infrastructure could be expanded to handle emissions from other areas.

Andy Lane, head of CCUS solutions at BP, said: “The formation of the Northern Endurance Partnership is another significant milestone towards developing the offshore infrastructure that will be needed to safely transport and store CO2 from CCUS projects along England’s east coast.”

The partnership’s members also include Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell, Total of France, Norway’s Equinor and Itay’s Eni.

The progress of the Net Zero Teesside and Zero Carbon Humber projects will be followed closely by campaigners and politicians as well as energy firms.

The projects face competition for attention from the Acorn scheme in Scotland. This is expected to involve using the depleted Goldeneye gas field off Scotland to store carbon dioxide that is a by-product of the production of hydrogen from natural gas. Backers expect the Acorn scheme to be operational in 2024.Shell and the Chrysaor oil and gas business are working with Pale Blue Dot Energy on Acorn.

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Concerns have been expressed that North Sea oil and gas fields that have had relatively large numbers of wells drilled into them would be unsuitable for carbon storage.

Endurance is an area of water-bearing rock. These are known as aquifers.

In February BP said it had assumed leadership of the Net Zero Teesside project with Eni, Equinor, Shell and Total.

Equinor and Scottish energy giant SSE are among the firms involved in Zero Carbon Humber. Aberdeen-based Wood is providing engineering design services.