What is carbon capture and storage?

Carbon capture and storage is a method for capturing carbon dioxide created by industrial processes from the atmosphere. The gas is compressed and, using legacy oil and gas infrastructure such as pipelines in the North Sea, is transported and permanently stored underground.

Why is it important?

CCS has been identified by major energy producers as a major hope in the drive to limit greenhouse gas emissions and help the UK achieve its net zero target by 2050. Oil and gas producers say it allows them to use their skills and resources to play a key role in the energy transition. However, the technology is still understood to be in its infancy.

What are the latest developments and how will they benefit Scotland?

The North Sea Transition Authority has issued 21 licences for 14 companies in the UK’s first-ever carbon storage licensing round, announced yesterday. These include two for the pioneering Acorn project in Aberdeenshire, which will effectively ramp up the amount of carbon dioxide that it can store 100km from the shore off the north-east coast.

The awards underline the recent transformation in fortunes for Acorn, which is a partnership between Harbour Energy, Storegga, Shell, and North Sea Midstream Partners. Acorn missed out when the UK Government announced funding the first CCS hubs in 2020, favouring projects south of the Border. However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged investment for the project in July this year, when he also confirmed that more than 100 new licences for North Sea oil and gas exploration would be issued. Harbour Energy secured four carbon storage licences in the first licensing round.

How has the industry responded?

Steve Cox, vice president of net zero and carbon capture and storage at Harbour Energy, said the new licences would help it scale up its plans for the technology and that it demonstrates the role that oil and gas companies can play in the energy transition as the UK targets net zero by 2050. He also said the development of additional storage capacity would create “thousands of skilled British jobs”.