CCSA conference – Springboard to Net Zero


By Nicola Clarke

31 October 2023

 The CCSA has just held their annual two-day conference at the beautiful grade II listed Central Hall located in Westminster London. With over 700 people in attendance, there were 8 plenary sessions, 15 break-out sessions to choose from with 98 speakers and chairs and an exhibition hall where delegates could mingle and catch up over refreshments. There was a clear focus on the UK and Europe on where we have come from, where we are and where are we going, against the backdrop of the significant climate challenge we face. There was energy in the room that significant progress was being made and the will to continue the good work.

The Right Honourable Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero opened the conference by acknowledging the UK’s journey of cutting emissions since 1990, the considerable work remaining, and the role CCS has to play which also offers significant job opportunities and investment in the economy. The UK has the right geology and the right skills and will be part of a global industry. The Right Honourable Secretary of State acknowledged that concrete timelines were required from the government and emphasised that CCS will need to be self-sustaining after initial support (a theme that was echoed in other parts of the conference) and how critical the design of viable business models are.

Ruth Herbert (CEO of CCSA) welcomed all to the event, thanked the sponsors and referenced the CCSA’s recently updated delivery plan[1]. CCS is accelerating in the UK, with 90 capture projects, 12 clusters, and 8 capture projects moving ahead with government support alongside 21 new storage licences. £20 billion has been confirmed to fund the first wave of projects, along with industry funding. It was recognised that a third of project pipelines rely on shipping infrastructure which isn’t in place yet. CCSA are also launching an online platform (map-based), with all projects in the pipeline, which will help with transparency.

Professor Sir David King from the Climate Advisory Group set the very sobering context of where we are with CO2 and methane levels at 500ppm, and combined with El Nino we are seeing the consequences across the globe in uneven ways. The jet stream suffering perturbations and above-average temperature rises at the poles with consequences to ice and permafrost melting.

Paro Konar from DESNZ talked about ways to accelerate CCUS deployment in the UK. CCS Is not new to the UK and there have been a lot of lessons learnt. Following a cost challenge task force, we asked what needs to be done to reduce costs. Three things are crucial: a certain long term; viable business models; and a cluster-based approach. The Energy bill is going through the final stages in the Houses of Parliament and will form the basis of a stable regulatory framework. There is nothing more certain than legal certainty. There are lots of viable business models for certain technologies, currently going through consultation. But there is a lot more to be done. 2023 has seen: 30 major publications from the government on CCS; £20 billion pledged; Acorn and Viking to move forward; 8 projects to deliver track one.Secretary of State – wants a viable market by 2030.Reskilling, upskilling, and retraining people across the supply chain is necessary and could result in 50,000 jobs. 20-30 Mt of storage is the target by 2030, which will require a large deal of choreography.

Sponsors and track one cluster Northern Endurance Partnership have completed FEED and hope to be the first storage site to have a permit in the UK. This could provide 25,000 jobs, account for 50% of the UK cluster emissions and by 2035 capture and store 23 MT CO2 per year.

Dan Sadler of Equinor gave his view on how to continue to deploy CCS in the UK, recognising the significant foundations the government has laid with policies and business models. However, if there is no infrastructure it becomes irrelevant. 50MT capture can be achieved by Liverpool, Humber, Teeside, Scotland and South Wales. His message was that the industry needed: trust, removal of infrastructure from the competitive process, enhanced transparency between government and industry; timing, confirmed affordability envelope for infrastructure development with an expedited planning process; and momentum, maintain emitter project progress by building confidence with a line of sight to execution.

Eric Oswold of Exxon Mobil outlined their experience in CCS and has recently been awarded 4 licences in the offshore round and is a founding member of the Solent Cluster. He raised the issue of the differing ETS systems between the EU and UK preventing cross-border transport of CO2, an issue that needs to be addressed. Also, we are starting to see intense competition for finite capital and talent globally.

Catherine Raw of SSE Thermal thanked the CCS and Hydrogen teams at DESNZ for the tangible progress over the last year. There is a looming capacity gap in energy by 2035 as demand grows and there is the retirement of nuclear and unabated sources and an increase in intermittent renewables. Flexible dispatchable capacity will be the most economical way to bridge the gap. It may be possible to prolong out life of gas power stations to 30 years and build decarbonised alternatives. We need to be agnostic about the technologies, with an ‘and/and’ rather than ‘and/or’ approach. We cannot afford to lose government consensus on CCS. All of this will be underpinned by the Energy bill.

The UK Clusters approach is world-leading and is making progress outside of Track 1 and 2, but needs security and is competing for finite global investment. They have a significant impact on communities as well as Net Zero targets. Bryony Livesey, the director of the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge, gave an update on their work ‘Enabling net zero: a plan for UK industrial decarbonisation’ report which was published Monday 16th October 2023[2]. Key outputs from the report show that clusters have a strong impact on the UK and how we decarbonise: meeting Net Zero Targets; driving clean growth and inward investment (see clusters thrive); protecting jobs and developing skills; enhancing energy security; nurturing innovation and supply chains; and growing international trade and exports. We also heard updates from clusters such as the Solent, South Wales (SWIC), Peak Cluster, Morecombe and 7CO2 that are outside track 1 and 2. The HyNet project is part of Track 1 and was celebrating the signing of heads of terms between ENI and DESNZ[3]and gave credit to the CCSA in guiding a supporting this process.

Skill development and jobs were important discussion points during the conference. David Walker, Progressive Energy, remarked that to progress projects there needed to be the right staffing at the local authority level to make sure planning can be delivered, and that consenting, environmental consultancies, lawyers and those in social engagement were at saturation.

There was an international as well as domestic focus at the conference with updates from the USA (Noah Deich), global updates from Jared Daniels of the GCCSI, Europe (including Maria Velkova, Christophe Malaurie, AL Tucker, Eve Tamme, Andrea Kleric and others), and a session on CCS in the Middle East and Asia (Aniruddha Sharma, Yoichi Noborisaka, Nor A’in Md Salleh, and Juho Lipponen). The obvious comparison is between the US and the UK. The US approach is vastly different to the UK in terms of funding and regulations. The UK hopes that the government will wean industry off subsidies whereas the US view that pollution control business will always need a subsidy to maintain it (Noah Deich, FECM).

An important discussion was held on infrastructure which included Joanna Campbell of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), Gordon Hutcheson of OFGEM, Ralph Windeatt of the Associated British Ports, Neil McCulloch of Spirit Energy and Ayan Bhattacharji of Interconnector, chaired by Paul Davies of 7CO2. Significantly the NIC have just published its second state of Infrastructure Report[4], a five-yearly project, with near- and medium-term activities and includes CCS.OFGEM will be named in the Energy Bill as the regulator for transport and storage for the UK, with a focus on pipelines and recognition that lessons can be learned from electricity and gas networks in terms of spatial planning.

Final remarks were given to round off the two days by Ruth Herbert (CCSA), Michael Foley (ExxonMobil), Hannah Bronwin (SSE Thermal), Dan Sadler (Equinor) and Ben Kek (Northern Endurance Partnership). The conference had brought more people together than in previous years, with more projects and more delivery. There is recognition of a global momentum. There was an acknowledgement of Porthos reaching FID. And hopes that this time next year the UK will be in a position to have reached the FID stage across several projects.

A lifetime award was presented to Peter Whitton (Progressive Energy) who was instrumental in founding CCSA in the early 2000s.

IEAGHG will continue the UK-international knowledge-sharing theme at our workshop with DESNZ on the 7th of November in London


[2] Enabling net zero: a plan for UK industrial decarbonisation – UKRI

[3] Eni and UK Government agree ‘Heads of Terms’ for world’s first asset based regulated CCS business model


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