North Sea stashes: Authority issues first permits to sequester carbon


Fourteen high volume storage operators learned today they’ve received 21 licences between them to pump CO2 and other greenhouse gas pollutants into voids under the North Sea bed.

Depleted fossil fuel reservoirs and saline acquifers covering an area the size of Yorkshire could be home to 30 million tonnes of the polluting gas annually by 2030, a volume equivalent to 10% of 2021’s national emissions.

The North Sea Transition Authority, the new name since March 2022 of the old Oil & Gas Authority, itemised today its first grant of storage licences. For beneficiaries, see the table at the end of this piece.

Bacton on the north Norfolk coast, pictured, is confirmed as a hub for storage and other energy activities, following licence grants to Shell, Italian giant ENI and Perenco, the  Anglo-French independent.  The location will count this decade on a combination of hydrogen and electricity processing, generated by offshore turbines, added to oshore management of sub-seabed GHG & CO2 reservoirs.

Aberdeen, Teesside and Merseyside appear similarly placed.

Today’s grants are the first among an estimated 100 storage licences which the NSTA and Whitehall believes will be needed to meet Net Zero.   Officials are encouraged that the volume of licence applications received for this round demonstrate the energy industry’s desire for further UK storage sites.

“It’s exciting to award these licences”, opined NTSA chief executive Stuart Payne.  “Our teams will support the licensees to bring about first injection of carbon dioxide as soon as possible.

Six licences have already been granted by the NSTA. The government recently announced £20bn funding for the progression of these existing projects. Two locations, Hynet on Humberside and the East Coast Cluster, have been selected as Track 1, while Acorn and Viking CCS projects have been chosen in Track 2 clusters.

An updated GIS map is available here. Redacted versions of all the licences will be published in coming days.

Ruth Herbert, chief executive at the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, observed:

“We welcome the acceptance of carbon storage licences, a significant step towards achieving net zero. These licences mark a substantial milestone towards widespread deployment of CCS.

“With the potential to store almost 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in these new locations”, she went on, “starting to develop these sites paves the way for a cleaner and more sustainable future. The next step is a carbon capture deployment plan to enable us to fully exploit our future CO2 storage capacity.”

Among licensees announced by the NTSA, Acorn received grants for the Acorn East and East Mey CO2 stores off Aberdeenshire. The operator is a four-way partnership between Shell, Storegga, Harbour Energy and Northsea Midstream Partners.

Licenced first by Holyrood in 2018, the combine now commands capacity of around 240 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 beneath the North Sea. It is charged with providing the transport and storage network for the Scottish Cluster to store CO2 emissions 100km offshore, in geological formations 2.5km below the seabed.

An Acorn spokesperson commented : “These extensive areas of subsea acreage are key elements in Acorn’s long-term strategy. The North Sea Transition Authority’s award of these carbon storage licences is welcome news, as we continue to respond to Government’s Track-2 process.

“Acorn’s stores 100km north-east of Peterhead  have the potential to store c.240 million tonnes of CO2.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed in July that Acorn had entered the Track-2 process covering commercial terms of storage and CO2 provision.

In coming years, the Scottish Cluster is scheduled to include nine different CO2 sources, spanning a variety of high-emitting sectors including industrial sites and power generation plants, as well as new hydrogen generation plant technology.

Its likeliest early CO2 sources include: two of the gas terminals at the St Fergus Gas Complex; SSE and Equinor’s Peterhead Carbon Capture Power Station; a new blue hydrogen plant supplying INEOS and Petroineos sites at Grangemouth; and ExxonMobil and Shell’s facilities at Mossmorran.

Today’s NTSA grants in summary are:

Licence number Licensee Partners (where applicable Area Other info (Area of interest)
CS008 ENI UK Ltd SNS SNS Area 4 Hewett Area
CS009 Perenco UK Ltd Carbon Catalyst Ltd SNS SNS Area 4 Leman Area
CS010 Spirit Energy Production UK Ltd EIS EIS Area 1 Morecambe Area
CS011 Pale Blue Dot Energy Ltd Shell UK Ltd; Chrysaor Ltd CNS CNS Area 2 Acorn East
CS012 Pale Blue Dot Energy Ltd Shell UK Ltd;  Chrysaor Ltd CNS CNS Area 1 East Mey
CS013 Enquest CCS Ltd NNS NNS Area 1 Magnus sub area
CS014 Enquest CCS Ltd NNS NNS Area 1 Thistle sub area
CS015 Enquest CCS Ltd NNS NNS Area 2 Tern sub area
CS016 Enquest CCS Ltd NNS NNS Area 2 Eider sub area
CS017 Perenco UK Ltd Carbon Catalyst Ltd SNS SNS Area6B Amethyst
CS018 Perenco UK Ltd Carbon Catalyst Ltd SNS SNS Area 6A West Sole
CS019 Synergia Energy CCS Ltd Wintershall Dea Carbon Management Solutions UK SNS SNS Area 4 Camelot Area
CS020 Neptune Energy CCS Projects Ltd SNS SNS Area 1 BC05 sub area
CS021 Neptune Energy CCS Projects Ltd Esso Exploration and Production UK Ltd SNS SNS Area 5 Bunter BC13
CS022 Neptune Energy CCS Projects Ltd SNS SNS Area 7 Caister Bunter
CS023 Chrysaor Production UK Ltd BP Exploration Operating Company Ltd SNS SNS Area 4 Vulcan area
CS024 Chrysaor Production UK Ltd BP Exploration Operating Company Ltd SNS SNA Area 8 Audrey
CS025 BP Exploration Operating Company Ltd Equinor New Energy Ltd SNS SNS Area 1 BC42 sub area
CS026 Shell UK Ltd Esso Exploration & Production UK Limited SNS SNS Area 2 Sean Fields
CS027 Shell UK Ltd Esso Exploration & Production UK Limited SNS SNS Area 2 Indefatigable field
CS028 Shell UK Ltd Esso Exploration & Production UK Limited SNS SNS Area 3




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