The 2023 Spring budget’s confirmation of £20 billion funding for the UK’s Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) programme is welcome news for the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) which is the trade body for the CCUS industry in Europe.
Ruth Herbert, Chief Executive at the CCSA, said:
“We are delighted to see that the Chancellor has today confirmed £20 billion of funding for CCUS. This marks a turning point for this vital sector, delivering the much-needed certainty to investors that the UK is serious about delivering CCUS. We look forward to seeing which projects have been chosen to move to construction, the forward timeline for selecting the next CCUS clusters that need to be operational this decade, and a swift passage of the Energy Bill through Parliament, to finalise the regulatory framework for the industry.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced plans to provide £20bn of support for CCUS projects over the next 20 years and the treasury declared that it would unveil a shortlist of projects for the first phase of CCUS deployment later in March.
Hunt said that the funding for the CCUS programme would kickstart early investment in CCUS and support 50,000 highly skilled jobs across the UK particularly on the East coast and in the Northwest of England and North Wales, as well as help capture 20 million to 30 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030 equivalent to the emissions from 10-15 million cars. It would provide the foundations for the delivery of the UK’s planned zero-carbon industrial hubs.
The announcement means that the industry can now move forward with implementing the initial CCUS clusters two years after the launch of the programme. A number of CCUS projects are in the advanced stages of development just waiting for the green light from the government to gain financial backing. The industry is also developing a robust pipeline of projects to deliver on the government’s net zero strategy in industrial regions all around the UK. These other regions are keen to be able to move forward with carbon capture and storage but will need to see commitment from the government for further deployment.
Stacey Collins, a CCUS & low-carbon hydrogen expert at Pinsent Masons, said the £20 billion fund “could be a game changer” for the industry. She said it was “encouraging to see the government doubling down on its commitment to this technology”.
The CCS technology extracts CO2 from industrial processes before it is emitted into the atmosphere; it is then stored underground where it can remain undisturbed for thousands of years. The related CCUS technology means that instead of just storing the carbon it is re-used in industrial processes by converting it into, for example, plastics, concrete, or biofuel.
The CCUS funding is part of the budget which saw Jeremy Hunt promise to boost UK energy security and establish the country as a "science and technology superpower".
Though CCUS is not a cheap technology and is still fairly immature, the UK cannot afford to bypass it as climate advisers say that the UK is not cutting emissions enough.
The government said that they are backing the technology in order to “increase resilience to future energy price shocks” suggesting that it would be used for the most part to allow the UK to burn more gas, rather than to capture emissions from factories for example.
Dr Steve Smith from Oxford University's Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment said the funding was "good news" but needs further policy decisions from government to become viable.
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Not all campaigners are happy with the CCUS funding news as they see it as an excuse not to cut emissions.
Alethea Warrington, senior campaigner at climate charity Possible said:
"Locking in reliance on gas power will increase our vulnerability to future energy price shocks, while adding in the additional costs, risks and uncertainty of trying to capture emissions from gas power plants. Including carbon capture will add even more costs, while being unproven to actually work and putting our climate, as well as our finances, at risk."
While the Chancellor praised the rapid expansion of the UK renewables industry citing the continued success of the offshore wind and solar industries. he said there was an urgent need to deliver alternative sources of reliable clean power in the form of new nuclear and CCUS projects.