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Carbon capture could be worth £100 billion to UK economy by 2050 – report

Analysts predict the UK has enough capacity to hold two centuries’ worth of emissions.

26 July 2022

Carbon capture and storage could be worth £100 billion by 2050, an industry report has said, with analysts predicting the UK has enough capacity to hold two centuries’ worth of emissions.

But despite the country being well-placed to become a world leader in the technology, with the UK having large industrial clusters, extensive gas transport infrastructure and good scientific understanding, the Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) report said Britain’s supply chain was fragile.

The paper warned because of this the UK was at risk of losing the industry to more attractive opportunities abroad, and government needed to act fast to secure its future.

Katy Heidenreich, OEUK’s supply chain and operations director, said carbon capture was “a key tool in our fight against climate change” and offered the opportunity for the “offshore energy supply chain to help energy intensive industries cut emissions”.

“If we get this right, it could unlock £100 billion of work for UK manufacturing employers by 2050. This will support UK jobs, cut emissions, boost the economy and develop skills which can be exported globally,” she said.

“Lots of progress has been made, but without urgent action the UK will miss out on the opportunity to secure a leadership position in this exciting new sector.”

Carbon capture is seen by many as a critical technology to help energy intensive sectors, such as cement and power generation, to meet their net zero goals.

The UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy said the country needs to capture 50m tonnes a year by 2035.

It works by capturing the carbon dioxide at source, rather than letting it go out into the atmosphere.

Undated handout from OEUK - submitted 26/7/22
Katy Heidenreich, of OEUK, with Verlume’s operations director Jonny Moroney (Michal Wachucik/Abermedia/PA)

The emissions can then be stored in offshore areas of Scotland, eastern England and Merseyside, with the rock formations having the potential to hold up to 78 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The report authors said that is the equivalent of two centuries’ worth of UK emissions as of today.

The bulk of the storage is in the North Sea, and the paper also said there was an opportunity to use the geological formations and depleted oil and gas reservoirs to store emissions from other countries.

The report, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, found that offshore oil and gas supply chain firms already had some capabilities in areas including plant design and engineering, plant fabrication and construction.

According to their forecast, carbon capture and storage could be worth £20 billion to the economy within the next decade.

As part of the report, they identified 13 actions for the UK Government and industry, including the need for support from the Government through early-stage funding and additional licensing rounds.

It said securing the work in the UK would benefit Aberdeen, Inverness, Liverpool, North Wales, East Anglia, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Teesside.

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