Green light for major UK carbon capture projects

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave the go-ahead on Monday to millions of pounds of government funding for two new carbon capture projects, which are seen as vital to the UK's bid to achieve its net zero target by 2050.

Achieving a zero-carbon future in front of a modern office building
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The new carbon capture and storage (CCS) clusters will be located in the north-east of both Scotland and England and, according to Downing Street, will support about 50,000 jobs.

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More North Sea drilling licences for energy security

More controversially, Mr Sunak also announced approval of 100 new North Sea oil and gas drilling licences as part of an effort to wean the UK off imports.Environmental campaigners have criticised the expansion of North Sea oil and gas production, saying it runs counter to Britain's net zero ambitions, but the prime minister said: "We have all witnessed how Putin has manipulated and weaponised energy - disrupting supply and stalling growth in countries around the world."Now more than ever, it's vital that we bolster our energy security and capitalise on that independence to deliver more affordable, clean energy to British homes and businesses."Even when we've reached net zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas. But there are those who would rather that it come from hostile states than from the supplies we have here at home."We're choosing to power up Britain from Britain and invest in crucial industries such as carbon capture and storage, rather than depend on more carbon-intensive gas imports from overseas - which will support thousands of skilled jobs, unlock further opportunities for green technologies and grow the economy."

Developing the CCS industry in the UK

The two CCS developments - the Acorn Project located at St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire, and the Viking Cluster in Immingham on the River Humber, near Grimsby - will pipe CO2 for storage in depleted offshore gas fields.Acorn is a joint venture involving four companies: carbon capture firm Storegga, oil and gas companies Shell UK and Harbour Energy, and offshore infrastructure firm North Sea Midstream Partners. Harbour is also overseeing the Humber project.Linda Cook, chief executive of Harbour Energy, said: “Today’s announcement is an important step forward for Harbour’s Viking and Acorn CCS projects and the development of the carbon capture and storage industry in the UK."It is also a further demonstration of the key role that the oil and gas sector is playing by using our existing infrastructure, skills and experience to build this new industry and help deliver the energy transition.“Viking has the potential to be transformational for the Humber, the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial region, creating thousands of jobs in the area and playing a vital role in supporting the UK to meet its target to capture 30 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030.” The Acorn system "re-uses legacy oil and gas infrastructure to transport captured industrial CO2 emissions from the Scottish Cluster, to permanent storage 2.5km under the North Sea".The 55km Viking pipeline will transport up to 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from Immingham to the former Theddlethorpe Gas Terminal, where it will join an existing offshore pipeline to the Viking area 2.7km below the southern North Sea.

A UK-wide strategy

Ruth Herbert, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, welcomed the go-ahead given to the projects, saying they would allow local industries "to continue to thrive whilst reducing their emissions as we transition to a net zero economy".She added: "Billions of pounds of investment is waiting to be deployed to decarbonise these industrial regions, but firm plans are required to secure it."Neil Gray, the Scottish government's environment minister, added: "We are making excellent progress in transforming our energy sector and, while we have yet to see the detail of this announcement, we welcome the UK government’s recognition that Scotland is at the forefront of the energy transition.“The Scottish government has been urging the UK government for well over a decade to commit to carbon capture storage in Scotland and I look forward to this much-anticipated update from UK government on the Acorn project and for much-needed clarity on the timeline and funding."

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