Twelve companies were awarded a total of 20 licences to develop carbon dioxide (CO2) storage offshore, in Britain’s first licensing round for such projects, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said on Thursday.
Britain aims to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which involves filtering planet-warming carbon from industrial smokestacks before it hits the atmosphere and storing it underground, to hold 20 million to 30 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.
Injection into the first storage sites, consisting of a mix of depleted oil and gas fields and porous rock formations, could start within six years, the NSTA said, but first operators need to obtain leases and approvals.
The new licences supplement a handful of other planned CCS projects that were part of a government 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 United States’ Inflation Reduction Act has increased pressure on European governments to support energy transition technologies.
Some of the 13 areas initially offered have been split to reach 20, an NSTA spokesperson said.
Nineteen companies applied for licences.
Enquest was awarded four licences, a company spokesperson said.
Neptune Energy, which by 2030 plans to store more carbon than it emits directly and indirectly, was awarded three licences, a spokesperson for the firm said.
Spirit Energy, whose biggest shareholder is Centrica, was awarded one licence, it said. Perenco was also awarded licences, a company spokesperson said.
The names of other successful bidders cannot be announced until they officially accept the award, an NSTA spokesperson added. Eni and Equinor have said they applied, but did not immediately reply 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 stood at around 417 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2022.
(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Kirsten Donovan and Barbara Lewis)