The UK offshore regulator has issued 20 licences for the storage of carbon dioxide offshore offering enough capacity to sequester up to 10% of the country’s emissions.

The nation’s North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) distributed the licences among 12 companies taking part in the country’s inaugural carbon storage licensing round that kicked off in June.

The announcement comes as UK Energy Security and Net Zero secretary Grant Shapps was visiting the US to join President Joe Biden’s Carbon Management Challenge aimed at accelerating carbon capture and storage (CCS) deployment.

The offshore sites include areas near Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire — catering to some of the traditional industrial hubs where heavy emitting activities are concentrated.

The UK is aiming to sequester up to 30 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, about 10% of total UK annual emissions, based on the 2021 figure of 341.5 million tonnes.

“The UK’s offshore waters remain the crown jewel of our energy mix, providing energy security, emissions reduction and carbon storage,” NSTA chief executive Stuart Payne said. “Through our engagement with applicants, we will have committed work plans in place such as seismic surveys and drilling of wells — we are working with industry to move at real pace.”

First carbon injection in some of the sites could be achieve in six years, NSTA said.

A spokesperson at NSTA said the list of companies is not being made public prior to their acceptance of the licences, which at this stage have been offered.

UK-headquartered independent exploration and production company Neptune Energy is one of the winners with three licences awarded, a company spokesperson told Upstream.

Another of the winners is independent producer Perenco UK, in a joint venture with partner Carbon Catalyst, the company said on Friday.

Norway’s Equinor participated in the licensing round, but could not yet confirm the status of its applications, the company told Upstream on Friday.

In the Spring Budget, the UK earmarked £20 billion ($25.3 billion) in funding towards CCS. The country has a target to deploy two CCS clusters by 2025, and two more by 2030.

Earlier this month, the UK government announced plans to compile survey data to produce a comprehensive mapping of carbon storage potential in the UK North Sea.

Lord Callanan, minister for energy efficiency and green finance, commented: “These new licences, together with fresh powers granted to NSTA within the landmark Energy Bill, will develop our most comprehensive picture yet of UK’s carbon capture and storage potential.”

The licences include a range of geological carbon store types and were selected by also considering proximity to existing infrastructure and links to the industrial clusters the country is developing.

Currently, there are six existing active licences for carbon storage in the UK offshore areas, which were awarded over the past several years, the NSTA spokesperson said. The new offers take the total number of licences tabled to 26, plus one licence that lapsed.

“This first carbon storage licensing round is likely to be the first of many as up to 100 CO2 stores could be needed for the UK to meet the net-zero by 2050 target,” NSTA said.

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