Government to help fund four carbon capture and storage hubs in the UK

The government is set to invest several hundred million pounds in carbon capture and storage technology as part of its action plan to tackle climate change.ITV News understands that on Wednesday the prime minister will pledge to help fund four carbon capture and storage “hubs” in the UK - in Scotland, Wales, the Humber and Teesside - and to have them up and running “by the mid-2020s”.Net Zero Teesside is one of the projects set to receive financial support from the taxpayer.

The project is being developed by BP, ENI, Equinor, Shell and Total, with BP leading as operator.

The plan is to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a range of heavy industries, including a gas-fired power station and chemical plants.

The CO2 will be compressed and piped 93 miles out into the North Sea before being injected into layers of solid rock in a reservoir 1.24 miles under the ground, effectively trapping it.

The Managing Director of Net Zero Teesside, Andy Lane, told ITV News that he hopes construction will begin in 2023, creating around 5,000 jobs, and that they will begin capturing carbon in 2026.

“What we plan for the first stage of the project would be capturing around 3 million tonnes per annum of CO2,” Lane said.

“However in the areas around Teesside and with the expansion of the project we think that number can get up to 10 million tonnes per annum of CO2.

"To put that into context that the equivalent to the emissions of about 3 million average households here in the UK. So this is a really significant amount of emissions reduction.” 

The UK has made a legally binding commitment to reduce its carbon emissions to almost nothing over the next thirty years but “Net Zero” is a target we are on course to miss.

In 2019, the UK produced an estimated 351.5 million tonnes of CO2.

Had a fully developed Net Zero Teesside project existed last year it would have prevented just over two percent of total emissions from getting into the atmosphere.  

Two carbon capture and storage consortia in the Humber which have also applied for taxpayer support also stand to benefit from government funding.“Zero Carbon Humber” targets emissions at Drax’s biomass power station at Selby and British Steel’s plant at Scunthorpe.

“Humber Zero” centres on VPI Immingham and Phillips 66+ with the aim of decarbonising industry on the South bank of the Humber.

In Scotland, “The Acorn Project” is hoping for financial support from government.

It proposes to capture carbon emissions at the St Fergus gas terminals on the East coast of Scotland and store them offshore in depleted North Sea oil and gas fields. 

The aspiration is to expand the project to bring in the wider industrial facilities at Grangemouth further south.

In total, up to four million tonnes of CO2 could be stored each year from the mid 2020s.

Plans for the “South Wales Industrial Cluster” are still in development.

The ambition is to capture emissions at Tata’s Port Talbot steelworks, Tarmac’s cement works at Aberthaw and the industrial plants at Milford Haven.

The scale of the financial support on offer from the government has yet to be announced but in the Budget in March the chancellor announced £800 million of extra funding for Carbon Storage, electric vehicles and nuclear.

BP, Shell and Total are highly profitable energy companies, they are also big polluters and some question why they require state support to invest in carbon capture and storage.

“What you have got is the need to create a big infrastructure,” says Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics.

“With all the pipelines it’s like a small version of the National Grid and you do need public money to get it going.”

Lord Stern authorised the UK’s official report on the economics of climate change a decade ago. He welcomed the government’s investment in carbon capture and storage.

“It’s really good news, it shows the UK is leading in a key technology,” he insisted.

“But it’s absolutely not a ‘get out of jail’ card.

"We have to get to Net Zero right access the economy: in electricity and power; in transport; in the goods we buy; in the buildings that we use; how we heat our homes... [carbon capture and storage] is 7-8% of what we need do, it’s not the other 93% that we have to do.

"It’s is not get out jail free card but is it an essential part of process? Yes it is”.