North Sea to the Rescue: The commercial and industrial opportunities of CO2 storage in the North Sea

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) delivers very substantial CO2 reductions from large industrial and energy facilities that currently pollute. CCS is not a peripheral decarbonisation technology. CCS is an indispensable component of national and global decarbonisation pathways as recognised by the IPCC, the IEA, and the European Commission. The EU 2050 Energy Roadmap relies heavily on the deployment of CCS to meet EU wide decarbonisation goals (European Commission, 2011). CCS deployment provides a huge opportunity for Europe to meet its energy, climate and societal goals, in particular to achieve its GHG emissions reduction targets at lower cost while satisfying energy security.

The North Sea has a critical role in the permanent storage of CO2 from many of Europe’s emitters. The North Sea has immense secure CO2 storage capacity and indigenous offshore industries with the capability to develop and operate CO2 storage complexes. The development and operation of transport and storage infrastructure has the potential to become a new industry for the North Sea, eclipsing declining hydrocarbon production. Countries that act now to remove commercial barriers and incentivise the sectors development will foster highly skilled employment attract industrial activity and enable the development of technology and service sectors.

Using estimates of the CO2 required to be stored in the North Sea for Europe to reach its 2050 decarbonisation objectives, Bellona has estimated the size of the future North Sea CO2 storage sector. CO2 storage will require the characterisation of storage sites, the drilling of appraisal and injection wells, the emplacement of CO2 platforms, along with engineering, fabrication and logistics. CO2 storage requires many of the same skills and infrastructure now underemployed or to be decommissioned. The CO2 storage sector has the potential to become a major North Sea enterprise, employing 22,000 people by 2030. Countries surrounding the North Sea basin must act to encourage the sectors development and to enable Europe to decarbonise effectively.

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