The UK could become a world-leader in carbon storage following the announcement by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) that it had received a total of 26 bids by 19 companies for the country’s first-ever carbon storage licensing round.

A ‘diverse range’ of applicants expressed interest in the 13 areas on offer, all of which are located off the coasts of Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool, and Lincolnshire. 

Opened in response to government targets and growing commercial interest, the round was launched on 14th June with applications closing on 13th September. 

With licenses awarded as early as 2023, the new sites could contribute to the storage of up to 30m tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030. 

Commenting on the announcement, Nick Richardson, Head of Exploration and New Venture, NSTA, said, “We were very pleased with the quantity and quality of applications we have received from a diverse range of applicants.” 

“The clear appetite among companies to get involved shows that the UK is well-positioned to become a world-leader in the sector.” 

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) involves the capture of CO2 from industrial processes such as steel or cement production, before being transported via ship or pipeline for permanent storage in rocks deep beneath the seabed.

According to the NSTA, the storage sites were only made available for licensing following considerations made over matters such as co-location with offshore wind, potential overlaps with petroleum licenses and environmental issues. 

Following the release of a report earlier this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it was discovered that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies may be necessary for power and industry sectors to reach Net Zero emissions. 

According to leading carbon storage specialist the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), the opening up of CO2 storage in the UK’s offshore space is a vital step towards widespread deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) clusters across the country. 

Reacting to the new data published by the NSTA, Ruth Herbert, Chief Executive, CCSA, said, “The high number of bids for the UK’s first-ever carbon storage licensing round, announced by the NSTA, is a clear indication of the level of interest in the UK’s storage potential.” 

“It also reinforces our message that the CCUS industry stands ready to invest in developing the UK’s carbon dioxide storage assets, based on the policy framework the government set out in the Energy Bill.” 

Depending on the specific project’s speed of progress, the first injection of CO2 could take place as early as 2027. 

Once awarded a license from the NSTA, an applicant will then need to obtain a lease from The Crown Estate or Crown Estate Scotland before moving on to the next stage. 

“Carbon storage can play a big part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and awarding additional licenses in 2023 will be a significant step forward,” added Richardson.