HSE & Sustainability

North Sea ‘Treasure Map’ Aims To Grow Economy and Unleash the UK’s CCS Industry

Companies licensed to drill in the North Sea will report their findings to regulators under new powers brought forward in an Energy Bill amendment.

Antique old map
Source: y-studio/Getty Images

A ‘treasure map’ of what lies beneath the North Sea will be created with the goal of helping the UK become a world leader in carbon capture and storage (CCS).

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 regulators, allowing for the development of the most comprehensive picture yet of the area’s geological make-up.

This information then can be used to unlock the UK’s potential by quantifying for investors how much CCS could be possible.

“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,” said UK Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps. “By working with the brightest and best who are already out in the North Sea, we can grow our economy by building the treasure map needed to unlock the full potential of this geological goldmine.”

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

The Energy Bill was introduced to Parliament on 6 July 2022. It aims to deliver a cleaner, more affordable, and more secure energy system over the long term for the UK while liberating private investment in clean technologies.

“Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine has laid bare the need to transform our energy system, and our landmark Energy Security Bill will mean homes and businesses across the UK benefit from a cleaner, more affordable, and more secure energy system,” said UK Minister for the Energy Bill, Nuclear, and Networks Andrew Bowie. “With security at its heart, the bill is the most significant piece of energy legislation in a decade and puts the UK on the path to cleaner electricity by ramping up carbon storage and our technologies of the future.”

CCS 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, the country is almost uniquely placed to benefit from this.

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. To kickstart this industry, the UK aims to store between 20 million and 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, equal to removing up to 6 million cars off UK roads each year.

As well as helping cut the UK’s own emissions, this potential is believed to be so considerable that the UK could help other nations using CCS by storing their carbon emissions, too.