UK launches first ever carbon storage licensing round


The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has launched the UK’s first ever carbon storage licensing round.

On 14 June, the NSTA announced that 13 areas of potential have been made available through the round. This areas included here are off the coast of Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire in the Southern North Sea, Central North Sea, Northern North Sea and East Irish Sea. They involve a mix of saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas field storage opportunities. Alongside the six already issued, they have the ability to make a substantial contribution to the goal of storing 20-30mn tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.

The six carbon storage licenses already on the UK Continental Shelf could meet up to a fifth of storage needs, assuming they hit their maximum potential of up to 40mn tonnes per annum injection rates by the mid-2030s. The capacity estimates of the areas being offered in this round carry uncertainty at this stage, but do offer the potential to make a very significant contribution to the decarbonisation of the UK, according to the NSTA.

The round is envisaged as being the first of many, with up to 100 CO2 stores potentially needed for net zero to be reached by 2050. It has been launched as a response to “unprecedented levels of interest” from companies eager to enter the market. The areas up for grabs feature a combination of attributes, including the right geological conditions, proximity to existing infrastructure which could be repurposed, and links to industrial clusters targeting carbon storage as a way of meeting their decarbonisation goals.

In selecting the areas to be made available for licensing, the NSTA considered issues such as co-location with offshore wind, whether there are known challenges and mitigations around existing or future offshore wind developments, environmental issues, potential overlaps with existing or future petroleum licenses, and other activities to ensure that key technologies can be taken forward.

The application window is set to run for 90 days, closing on 13 September. The NSTA will then make evaluations based on technical and financial criteria, ahead of new licenses being awarded in early 2023. The size and scale of the licensed stores will mean they are likely to proceed at different paces. The first injection of CO2 could come as early as four to six years after the licence award.