European energy companies launch major carbon capture projects off UK coast

Oil platform in the North Sea [Regan Vercruysse / Flickr]

After decades spent extracting fossil fuels from the UK’s North Sea, a consortium of oil companies is preparing to pump Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions back beneath the seabed to help meet the government’s climate ambitions. EURACTIV’s media partner partner, The Guardian, reports.

BP has set out plans to lead an alliance of energy companies in siphoning off the carbon dioxide from factory flues under new plans in which almost half the UK’s industrial emissions will be stored beneath the North Sea from 2026.

The veteran North Sea oil extractor is leading a partnership including Italy’s state oil company Eni, Norway’s Equinor, National Grid, Royal Dutch Shell and French energy company Total in a plan to transport 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year from two separate carbon capture projects based in the Teesside and Humber industrial clusters on England’s east coast.

At Teesside, BP will work with the same oil companies, in a separate venture, to capture up to 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from the industrial cluster – equivalent to the same emissions produced from the energy used by 3 million UK homes – from the mid-2020s.

Meet Europe’s two ‘most exciting’ CO2 capture and storage projects

A plan to pipe CO2 emissions from industries around the Port of Rotterdam and a hydrogen transport hub in the north of England have been branded as “the most exciting in Europe”, although promoters admit both will need substantial government backing to materialise.

Meanwhile, at the Humber, a separate alliance including National Grid, Equinor and power generator Drax, hopes to capture at least 17 million tonnes of CO2 from hundreds of refineries and factories.

The new alliance will operate the pipes and storage facility needed to transport the emissions from both industrial zones and dispose of almost 50% of the UK’s industrial emissions in salt caverns beneath the North Sea seabed.

Andy Lane, BP’s head of carbon capture solutions, said the project represents a “significant milestone” towards developing the offshore infrastructure needed to safely store carbon, and the oil industry’s “willingness to come together and collaborate wherever possible” to contribute to the UK’s climate goals.

Carbon capture and storage is considered vital to the UK’s legally binding target to create a carbon neutral economy by 2050. It would also be “virtually impossible” for the world to meet its climate targets without it, according to the International Energy Agency.

There are still only 20 projects in commercial use worldwide but the agency believes that, in the last three years, plans for more than 30 commercial carbon capture facilities have come forward, representing a potential investment of about $27bn (£20.7bn).

The UK government has promised £800 million to decarbonise at least two heavy-industry “carbon clusters”, the first in 2025 and the second by 2030, falling short of calls from MPs and the government’s official independent climate advisers at the committee on climate change to roll out multiple carbon capture projects within the next five years.

The Northern Endurance Alliance has applied for funding from the government’s £170 million industrial decarbonisation challenge which was set up this time last year. The support is part of the government’s £4.7 billion industrial strategy challenge fund which was set up by the government to address the biggest barriers to the UK’s future productivity and earning power.

Environmentalists find renewed hope in ‘industrial’ CCS

Considered almost dead and buried a few years ago, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is enjoying renewed support among environmentalists, providing fresh hopes that the much decried technology may finally be coming of age and play its part in the fight against climate change.

* This article was originally published in The Guardian Environment and is reproduced here by kind permission.

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