Research carried out by The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland indicates a strong desire amongst the carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) developer community to expand the sector and make greater use of UK waters for carbon storage activity.
The survey, carried out in spring 2023, received input from 15 out of 22 developers currently engaged across the UK’s CCUS sector, with the combined responses revealing a clear aspiration to develop a large number of CO2 storage sites across various locations on the UK seabed. The four main findings were that:
1. From those developers who responded, their ambition is to bring up to 37 stores online by 2035, with an additional 25 by 2050. These numbers, combined with the volumes and rates of injection that they might support, provide a positive signal when considered in the context of government targets for carbon capture and storage and the contribution it can make to achieving net zero.
2. Developers showed interest in all regions of the UK continental shelf, with the Southern North Sea being of particular interest. This area is close to known carbon emitters (for example, in clusters of industry along the east coast of England).
3. Several prospective projects showed strong cohesion between emitter activities, transport projects, and potential store development.
4. Developers are also keen to see a more streamlined process for the leasing and licensing of storage sites. Leasing is managed by The Crown Estate (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and Crown Estate Scotland (for Scotland), while all licensing is managed by The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA).
Survey questions focused on two areas: the number of stores, volumes and rates that developers hope to achieve by 2035 and 2050, and the opportunities and challenges to meeting those targets as a sector. Overall, the responses showed strong developer appetite that will support progress toward the UK Government’s Sixth Carbon Budget (CB6) targets. Findings were shared with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), and the Scottish Government.
Nicola Clay, Head of New Ventures Marine for The Crown Estate, said: “CCUS has a key part to play in the UK’s journey to net zero. This market engagement, and the data it has provided, will prove invaluable when it comes to shaping the UK’s carbon storage sector, and will enable The Crown Estate, Crown Estate Scotland, Government, and NSTA to continue guiding the market toward injection. We look forward to working with industry and other partners to develop this exciting sector and make the most of the opportunity that carbon storage provides.”
Sian Wilson, Head of Offshore Development for Crown Estate Scotland, said: “The findings of this engagement with key industry partners confirms both the appetite and some of the requirements needed to take CCUS to the next level. In doing so, the UK’s vast carbon storage potential can play a central part in helping to achieve net zero targets. “Crown Estate Scotland is working closely with our partners in The Crown Estate, NSTA, and Scottish & UK Governments to enable interested project developers to both develop appropriate access to seabed and support more deployment of CCUS in Scottish waters. Alongside our ambitious programme of offshore wind projects, such actions have the potential to help transform the UK energy market.”
As managers of the seabed around the UK, The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland are committed to ensuring that all sectors can grow in a balanced way that supports responsible development and the natural environment. To support this aim, The Crown Estate recently announced pioneering work to digitally map the seabed in order to enable the delivery of multiple priorities, including the development of the carbon capture and storage sector, out to 2050.
The Crown Estate convenes the Co-Location Forum, an industry group of CCUS and offshore wind developers and partners, including the NSTA and Crown Estate Scotland, as part of its work to ensure a coordinated approach to seabed development.