Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Make CCUS a UK national priority

Carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) should be developed fully with industry cooperation and implemented as a national priority, according to the British Chamber of Commerce.

In a green innovation paper, Building Sustainable Futures for UK Businesses, CCUS was highlighted as one of five key recommendations.

Emma Howard Boyd CBE, Chair, said emerging technologies such as CCUS hold ‘immense promise’.

“Government should bridge the gap between early-stage development and market viability,” she writes in the paper’s foreword.

“We need a financial ecosystem that nourishes green businesses with capital, and a robust institutional framework, supported by long-term vision, clear goals, and the agility to adapt. This includes innovative financing instruments, targeted investments, skills development, streamlined planning rules, targeted tax breaks, and a robust green taxonomy.”

The UK has the natural resources to become a ‘world leader’ in CCUS, with 78 billion tonnes storage potential in the North Sea, combined with a strong existing industrial skills capability.

To play its allocated role in meeting CO2 emissions targets, the CCUS sector will need to increase the annual amount of CO2 stored by at least 6 Megatonnes per annum (Mtpa) each year from 2031, and to at least 50 Mtpa by the mid-2030.

The paper notes this is a significant challenge given that there are currently no CCUS projects operating in the UK, although the government has identified the first four CCUS clusters for deployment in the UK by 2030 and committed up to £20bn to establishing a CCUS sector.

Highlighting the UK is now entering a crunch phase for delivery on Net Zero, this year the government will work with industry to finalise its framework for the transition from the current “market creation” phase (i.e. government support for CCUS clusters) to a commercial, competitive and self-sustaining CCUS market.

The policies to be determined in the coming year include an enhanced competitive allocation process for capture contracts, setting out the strategic direction for CO2 transport networks, as well as securing sufficient subsurface storage capacity, publishing a Green Jobs Plan, and establishing an industry working group on cost reduction opportunities.

“The recently passed Energy Act is also a key enabler, as it establishes the primary legislative framework for Industrial Carbon Capture, Greenhouse Gas Removals,” it adds.

“CCUS industry stakeholders have broadly welcomed the government’s strategy, noting its bold plan for making the UK a global leader in CCUS, and the positive steps for both Track 1 and Track 2 CCUS clusters. However, industry investors have called for accelerated progress on the first four CCUS clusters.”

In a closing CCUS recommendation, it said, “We welcome the government’s recently launched CCUS strategy and call for this to be developed fully with industry cooperation and implemented as a national priority.”

Other recommendations included advancing the UK’s framework for change, introducing a robust green industrial strategy to drive investment, attracting private investment for Contracts for Difference, ‘greening’ the workforce, reforming planning and upgrading the energy grid, and take action on the green taxonomy, carbon pricing and leakage, as well as developing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The paper notes the United States has significantly ‘upped the ante’ on green innovation policies, with its landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which passed into law in August 2022.

Despite warnings that the UK will see billions of investments move overseas, the UK government has been ‘frustratingly slow’ to respond to the US IRA and similar policies worldwide. Instead, it does “not wish to participate in a discriminatory subsidy race,” the paper states.

While it is widely accepted that the UK cannot match the fiscal firepower of larger economies, the report notes an abundance of sectors – floating offshore wind, sustainable aviation fuel, CCUS and tidal stream, electricity markets, chemicals industry and aerospace – where the UK has expertise, geological potential and comparative advantage, which should be capitalised on.

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