• Licences could store up to 23 million tonnes pa (Mtpa) of CO2 by 2038   
  • Six licences now in place on the UK Continental Shelf  

The drive to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 has taken a sizeable step forward with the award of two carbon storage (CS) licences in the Southern North Sea.   

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has awarded the licences to bp and Equinor with an appraisal term of eight years. The agreed work programmes require the licensees to show progress achieving milestones, such as performing seismic surveys of the four proposed storage sites and drilling wells to acquire data before applying for a storage permit.   

The four separate storage sites are located around 70 km (43 miles) off the coast of Humberside. Combined with the existing licence granted for the Endurance carbon store, they could eventually contribute to the storage of up to 23 Mtpa of CO2 around 1,400 m beneath the seabed. The government’s target for Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage is to reach 20-30 Mtpa by 2030, and over 50 Mtpa by 2035.   

NSTA is now stewarding six CS licences on the UKCS, having awarded five licences since 2018 and agreed a transfer of a sixth.    

Current project estimates indicate that earliest injection from a CS project could come as soon as 2025 given the progress already seen in the HyNet, Northern Endurance Partnership’s East Coast Cluster and V Net Zero Humber Cluster projects.     

The NSTA, The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland recently issued a Joint Statement in which the three organisations pledged continued collaboration to unlock the potential of carbon storage.   

Scott Robertson, NSTA Director of Operations, said:   

“The NSTA is pleased to award these licences which have the potential to make a significant contribution towards the government’s net zero target.     

“Carbon storage and low carbon gas production, alongside growth in hydrogen and renewable energy, are all key elements of the energy transition and a crucial part in tackling the climate emergency, but we know that time is short and real action must be taken rapidly, so we will work closely with bp and Equinor to ensure that milestones on this project are met, as we do with other projects across the North Sea.”     

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: 

“Carbon capture provides a key opportunity for the future of the North Sea, as well as UK industries. We are determined to make the UK a world-leader in this developing market and these licences represent an important contribution to making that a reality.” 

Andy Lane, Northern Endurance Partnership Managing Director, said:   

“The North Sea Transition Authority’s decision to grant bp and Equinor carbon storage licences is great news for the Humber, Teesside and the East Coast Cluster, which represents almost 50% of the UK’s industrial cluster CO2 emissions.   

“This is another important milestone for the East Coast Cluster which will capture and safely store CO2 emissions from a wide range of industrial and power projects, protect and create thousands of jobs and help establish the Teesside and Humber regions as a globally-competitive climate-friendly hub for industry and innovation.”    

Grete Tveit, Senior Vice President for Low Carbon Solutions, Equinor, said:   

“We're delighted these licences were awarded to Equinor and bp by the North Sea Transition Authority. This is a major milestone for the East Coast Cluster project which will make a tangible impact in the UK's climate change ambitions.   

“Delivered with our partners in the Humber, Teesside and the Northern Endurance Partnership, the East Coast Cluster will not only establish the UK as a leader in the energy transition, but will also secure and create tens of thousands of jobs and bring investment to local communities.”   

Notes to editors:   

  •  Carbon capture and storage (CCS) refers to a number of techniques and processes which capture carbon dioxide emissions, generally from industrial processes. The CO2 can then be transported, including via repurposed gas pipelines, and stored, for example in underground locations within the rock formations below the UK Continental Shelf.   
  • The ‘Appraisal Term’ on the issued licences is eight years, however an application for a storage permit can be submitted earlier in the Appraisal Term and will be subject to appropriate assessments and evaluations.   
  • The NSTA is the licensing authority for offshore carbon dioxide storage in the UK, approving and issuing carbon dioxide storage and appraisal licences, storage permits, and maintaining the carbon storage public register.   
  • It should be noted that the licences do not convey permission for development activities including drilling and injection testing: these require further consents from the NSTA.   
  • Certain activities proposed under carbon storage licences may also be subject to specific environmental assessment by BEIS (Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED)).   
  • A licensee also requires a lease from the Crown Estate/Crown Estate Scotland (as applicable) before undertaking storage activities.   
  • In addition, the NSTA is a statutory consultee to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) in relation to operators’ decommissioning plans, where reuse opportunities or potential should have been considered.     
  • The list of carbon appraisal and storage projects licensed by the NSTA can be seen here  
  • NSTA/TCE/CES Joint Statement  
  • BEIS leads government policy on CCS  
  • An average car creates approximately 2 tonnes of CO2 a year; therefore 10 Mt CO2 per annum would amount to removing more than 10 million cars off the road. For context, in 2019 there were around 32 million cars in the UK     

About the Northern Endurance Partnership and the East Coast Cluster   

The Northern Endurance Partnership is a joint venture between bp, Equinor, National Grid Ventures, Shell, and TotalEnergies.   

The Northern Endurance Partnership’s East Coast Cluster, which unites the Humber and Teesside with infrastructure to decarbonise industry and establish a platform for economic growth, was selected as a track one cluster in the UK Government’s first phase of the Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) cluster sequencing process.     

For further information please contact:    

Tel: 07785 655620    

Email: pressoffice@nstauthority.co.uk   

Map of storage licences