In pursuit of net zero: unlocking the potential beneath the seabed.
What is CCUS (Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage)?
Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) is a rapidly evolving technology which can substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the global economy at an industrial scale.
CCUS will play a key role in meeting the UK’s net zero carbon emissions target by 2050, supporting hard to abate generation and heavy industries to remove emissions from the atmosphere. The Crown Estate is working to identify and create a CO2 storage pipeline that delivers the Sixth Carbon Budget (CB6) targets, meet market expectations, and the government’s target to have four active stores by 2030.
The UK’s net zero transition will require an energy mix that is cleaner, more diverse, and not reliant on a single source of fuel or technology. CCUS will be a significant contributor to that effort and will enable the UK to adapt its existing gas generation assets to provide secure electricity in the short-term, as it seeks to develop more renewable sources of energy.
Our role in CCUS
As managers of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The Crown Estate is responsible for granting leases for offshore pipeline transportation, seabed and subsurface rights to developers for CO2 storage. Through this, we aim to accelerate the UK’s path to net zero and create lasting economic, environmental and social value for the nation.
We work closely with regulators and stakeholders, including the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) – the regulator for carbon dioxide transport and storage – the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), and the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED)to review applications from developers for the licensing and leasing of offshore transport and storage opportunities.
Developers are required to apply for a carbon storage licence, granted by the NSTA, and a storage agreement for lease, granted by The Crown Estate, to develop transport and storage opportunities under the seabed. This will enable them to proceed with a Permit application and a lease if successful.
Our current focus
While the seabed is vast, competing demands for this space are increasing, so a coordinated approach to its management, in balance with the marine environment, is more vital than ever before. Through the Offshore Wind and CCUS Co-Location Forum, The Crown Estate brings together partners including the NSTA, the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), RenewableUK, Government and Crown Estate Scotland to provide strategic coordination of co-location research and activity and help maximise the potential of the seabed for these two critical activities. Since November 2021, we have been engaging with developers on the carbon stores selected in the Government’s Track 1 ‘Cluster Sequencing’ process, which are capable of storing millions of tonnes of CO2.
We are currently assessing the nominations and applications received by the NSTA and are working together to bring these forward, to meet the UK’s immediate ambition of having the option to deploy CCUS at scale during the 2030s.
Industry stakeholders survey
In March 2023, we launched our first developer engagement for CCUS in collaboration with Crown Estate Scotland, conducting a survey to establish market requirements for seabed and subsurface carbon store development. This marked an important milestone in The Crown Estate and UK’s CCUS journey, as the data and information generated through this survey will be critical to further developing our understanding of market needs to enable the appraisal and development of CCUS stores around the UK.
Survey questions focused on two key topics, firstly the number of stores, volumes, and rates that developers hope to achieve by 2035 and 2050, and secondly, the opportunities and challenges to meeting those targets as a sector. Overall, the responses showed strong developer appetite that will support progress toward the Government’s Sixth Carbon Budget (CB6) targets.
We received input from 15 out of 22 developers currently engaged across the UK’s CCUS sector. 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:
Across the responding developers there are aims to bring up to 37 stores online by 2035, with a further 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.
Geographically speaking, developers showed interest in all regions of the UK, 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).
Several prospective projects showed strong cohesion between emitter activities, transport projects and potential store development.
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). This engagement and its outputs will help us in our work will ensure that all carbon stores are identified and appraised where they will be most effective and derive the most benefit from the natural resources our seabed provides.
As is central to our role, we will also ensure this is undertaken whilst balancing the needs of all marine users and protect vital wildlife environments.
For our press release on the results of the survey, please click here.
In order to help meet Government targets and industry demand, the NSTA, The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland are working together to progress CCUS development at pace.
The Crown Estate fully supports the September 2023 announcement by the NSTA that 21 carbon storage licences have been awarded while being mindful at all times of the impact of development on the marine environment and the rights of existing leaseholders of other technologies. We are committed to playing our part in achieving net zero, including through the design and implementation of the required seabed leasing process for CCUS. We are currently working with partners to establish the most viable route to deliver on CCUS and will update the market on next steps in due course.
Work is also underway on analysis to identify suitable seabed and subsurface areas for carbon storage, while being mindful at all times of the impact of development on the marine environment and the rights of existing leaseholders of other technologies. This work will inform the design of any future leasing process.
How to work with us
For an informal confidential discussion on prospective sites, please get in touch with the team at CCUS@thecrownestate.co.uk.
Senior Technology Manager, CCUS & Hydrogen, Marine, Energies & Infrastructure