The recently formed North Sea Transition Authority has issued two new carbon storage licences. BP and Equinor were the successful recipients in this licensing round, bringing the total number of licences awarded to six. This is indeed a step toward the goal of a net zero future, and sounds positive, but we must ask ourselves if we are doing enough?
The UK government has set a target of capturing 20 to 30 million tonnes of carbon annually by 2030. Although the six issued licences could provide the majority of this capture capacity there is a great deal of work and investment required to turn these projects into functioning carbon capture and storage infrastructure networks.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has been a discussion point for many years, but most previous projects have failed due to lack of funding and support from government. Had the required support been forthcoming we could have had significant CCS infrastructure in place and already be reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
2030 is on the horizon so we need to progress rapidly to ensure we meet these targets and those which follow. Firm commitments and increased investment from government are required so that these projects can be fast-tracked. Additionally, we need to build the relevant engineering skills and workforce at pace and scale to ensure we can accelerate the roll-out of CCS projects.
Perhaps we can take lessons from the COVID-19 vaccination programme where parallel activities, a less risk-averse approach, and proper resourcing ensured a rapid roll-out. If we can transfer this approach to dealing with the climate crisis, then perhaps we can make up for decades of inaction and decarbonise our industry in good time.