UK's 'Treasure Map' to Show Mammoth Potential of North Sea's Carbon Storage

©Dmitry Kovalchuk/AdobeStock
©Dmitry Kovalchuk/AdobeStock

The UK wants to become a "world leader in carbon capture and storage," and the government on Tuesday said it would facilitate the creation of a 'treasure map' which will quantify for investors how much carbon capture and storage could be possible under the country's seabed.

Carbon capture and Storage involves separating carbon dioxide from industry and storing it safely under the seabed in spaces left by oil and gas extraction. 

"Thanks to the geological make-up of the UK, this country is almost uniquely placed to benefit from this and create a whole new industry," the government said.

"A ‘treasure map’ of what lies beneath the North Sea will be created to help the UK become a world leader in carbon capture and storage," the department said.

But how much CO2 can be stored off the UK's coast?

How Much CO2 Can Be Stored Under UK Seabed, in Elephants?

"Estimates suggest that there may be enough space underneath the UK’s oceans – including its old oil and gas fields – to store up to 78 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent to the weight of around 15 billion elephants, and as much carbon dioxide as produced by up to 6 million cars on the road," the UK Government's Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said.

"Companies already at the forefront of this technology and licensed to drill in the North Sea will have to report what they find to the regulator, which will develop the most comprehensive picture yet of the geological area’s make-up. 

"This information can then be used to unlock the UK’s huge potential by quantifying for investors how much carbon capture and storage could be possible. This could attract more companies to the UK, supporting as many as 50,000 green jobs by 2030, helping to grow the economy and delivering on the Prime Minister’s priorities," the statement issued Tuesday reads.

New Powers for NSTA

Under plans announced in Parliament today, the government plans to grant the North Sea Transition Authority, as a carbon storage regulator, powers to obtain information and samples from those who have a licence already to store carbon. 

These will give the information needed about the geological features of hidden underground spaces underneath the North Sea that have already been mapped. This will help develop an encyclopaedic knowledge about what lies beneath the waves and confirm the likely scale of the industry this could create, helping to encourage private investment.  

"The government intends to bring forward these new powers for the North Sea Transition Authority in an amendment to the Energy Bill, which had its Second Reading in the House of Commons today," the department said.

Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps said: "The UK is in prime position to become a world leader in carbon capture and storage – a whole new industry that could boost our energy security, help cut our own emissions and those of our European neighbors and create thousands of jobs for the future.

Stuart Payne, North Sea Transition Authority Chief Executive, said: "Carbon storage is essential to reaching net zero, and the industry requires a wealth of reliable information to select sites to store millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases. The NSTA welcomes these new powers to collect this vital data and share it with the industry as it leads the orderly transition and provides thousands of skilled jobs."

According to the UK government, the country's CO2 storage capacity, apart from helping cut the UK’s own emissions, could be so considerable that the UK could also help other nations using carbon capture and storage – including other European countries – by storing their carbon emissions too.

UK government Minister for Scotland John Lamont said: Expanding carbon capture and storage forms a vital part of our Net Zero ambitions. The new measures introduced today will propel that sector forward, while supporting up to 50,000 jobs to benefit Scotland and the whole of the UK. Not only will this accelerate our transition to using cleaner, greener energy and enhance our energy security but it will also bring a welcome economic boost to aid our priorities of reducing debt and halving inflation.


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