Britain awards 20 offshore carbon storage licences to 12 firms

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Twelve companies were awarded a total of 20 licences to develop carbon dioxide (CO2) storages 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 still need to obtain a number of leases and approvals.

The new licences come on top of a handful of other planned CCS projects that were part of a government pilot scheme and for which negotiations on commercial details are ongoing.

Some of the 13 areas that were initially offered have been split to reach 20, an NSTA spokesperson said.

Nineteen companies had applied for licences. 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.

The names of other successful bidders cannot be announced until they officially accept the award, an NSTA spokesperson added. Eni (ENI.MI) and Equinor (EQNR.OL) 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 is yet to be deployed on a large scale anywhere in the world due to limited profitability.

Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions stood at around 417 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2022.

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