CCUS 2035 goal means it’s time to act now

On 29 March 2022, I attended the Carbon Capture and Storage Association’s (CCSA) CCUS Delivery Plan 2035 meeting. At this event, CCSA members talked about the development of their CCUS delivery plan, which outlines how the government and CCUS industry can achieve the UK’s goal of capturing and storing at least 50 MtCO2/y by 2035.

They identified seven building blocks for a successful CCUS industry in the UK: an attractive investment framework, timely cluster delivery, a healthy supply chain, sufficient storage capacity development, a mature CO2 transport network, a supportive public, and investment in innovation. These attributes would both help the UK reach its 2035 goal and enable the UK to become a global leader in CCUS. In particular, the report suggests that the UK could become a hub for carbon storage in Europe, which would open up new opportunities for UK industry.

However, in light of the 2035 timeline, current policy commitments will likely not be enough to deliver the government’s goal. Without additional action in the short term, UK industry will have to rush early in the next decade to meet capacity targets. However, the government could take concrete action now to avoid this outcome. The CCSA estimates that with a better policy framework, the UK could actually exceed its goal and achieve 70 Mt/y abatement. While the current pipeline of carbon capture projects is sufficient, the government needs to enable the creation of a sophisticated transport and storage network in order to reach this larger target.

The CCSA report highlights a few important actions that the government can take in the next year to facilitate the growth of the industry. The CCSA recommendations are:

First, the government needs to provide clarity on the scale and funding of government sponsored projects. The industry needs to know the frequency and volume of future contract awards in order to plan for new investments. In particular, the Track-2 cluster selection process needs to be clarified and then launched as soon as possible.

Second, the government should streamline the permitting process for new projects, especially for storage. The UK has significant storage potential, but the industry needs properly licensed sites in order to be confident in their investments.

Finally, the current cluster projects in the northeast and northwest of England need continued support to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner. Deploying the initial cluster infrastructure, especially transport and storage networks, will be essential to allow the industry to expand to meet the 2035 goal.

The most important message from the event was that urgent action is required. Overall, the UK needs to be ready to strike out as a leader on CCUS. The government cannot wait for others to start, especially on storage, if it wants to meet its net zero emissions goals and become an industry leader.