Oil and gas majors could be forced to pay for CCS in the UK
Companies that import or extract oil and gas in the UK could be forced to pay for the cost of storing carbon emissions underground, under a new amendment to the Energy Bill.
Proposed by a coalition of Labour, Lib Dem and crossbench Lords, the new clause states: “The Government shall undertake a consultation on measures requiring extractors and importers of petroleum to contribute to the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS).”
Specifically firms would be asked to store carbon themselves or pay for the sequestration of a ‘small but rising fraction’ of the carbon content of the fossil fuels they extract or import into the UK.
The amendment was debated in the Lords on Wednesday but won’t be voted upon until the energy bill reaches its report stage in October.
In the debate, current energy minister Lord Nick Bourne said that the Government “wants to do something” on CCS but said was too early to talk about specific policy levers.
He added: “CCS is important to the Government. We committed a significant sum of money to it in our manifesto and that remains very much government policy.
“We have a good story to tell in that as a country we have the important potential of the North Sea for carbon capture and storage, so I am keen that it should be incorporated in the Bill in a way that it is not at the moment.”
Labour’s Lord Ronald Oxburgh, who co-wrote the amendment, said there were no credible solutions to the global emissions problem that didn’t include CCS.
He said that CCS was supported by various stakeholders including oil extractors and electricity generators, but its development was held back because it was not the specific responsibility of any of them.
“In that sense, CCS is an orphan technology,” said Oxburgh. “It has numerous well-meaning aunts and uncles, but no parents who will really acknowledge it. Therefore, there is no one to take driving and fundamental responsibility for pushing it forward.”
Forcing extractors and importers to pay for the technology would encourage them to develop it as efficiently as possible, said Oxburgh.
The Lords debate comes the same day as the launch of new research which claims to have found a new more efficient way to store CO2 underneath the North Sea.
Researchers behind the CO2MultiStore project say they can maxmimse the storage potential of subsea geological formations by injecting CO2 at two points at once.
"Our study is one of the keys that will unlock the potential CO2 storage capacity underlying the North Sea and release this immense storage resource,” said Dr Maxine Akhurst, from the British Geological Survey, which contributed to the study.
"Our results show that by using more than one injection site in a single sandstone, operators can store greater volumes of CO2 compared to using a single injection site, so increasing Europe's capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said he planned to work with the researchers to establish the technology in Scotland.
The UK Government is currently considering bids from Peterhead's gas-fired power station in Aberdeenshire and the Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire as part of a £1bn competition to encourage the development of CCS . A final decision is not expected until 2016.