The future of UK’s oil and gas industry lies in offshore carbon storage

A multi-billion-pound industry that can deliver effective climate action and a viable future for the UK’s oil and gas industry is being imperilled by slow decision-making within government, a parliamentary committee will hear today.

Prof Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, will tell the Scottish Affairs Select Committee that carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers a lifeline to the UK oil and gas industry as it faces an unavoidable transition to a low-carbon economy, but urgent action is needed by government to seize the opportunity.

This week, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark report [1] warned that the world has just 12 years to enact measures that will keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C, and all scenarios will call on carbon dioxide removal technology.

One year ago, a key industry study [2] showed that a CCS network making use of oil and gas industry expertise and infrastructure could boost the UK economy by an estimated £160 billion between now and 2060.

Evidence already submitted to the Select Committee by the SCCS research partnership stated that:

  • The oil and gas industry has the skills, experience, knowledge and assets to develop a profitable CCS industry in the UK.
  • Oil and gas infrastructure can be re-used, saving public money on decommissioning and enabling the development of a new offshore CO₂ storage industry for the UK.
  • Well-managed CO₂-EOR will contribute to maximising economic recovery, as well as potentially storing more CO₂ than it produces.
  • Urgent action is needed by the UK Government, such as joining the dots within government to ensure opportunities are not lost due to a lack of clear responsibility, and ensuring suitable pipelines are preserved for re-use.

Prof Stuart Haszeldine said: “The future of the oil and gas industry is inextricably linked to CCS. It provides a unique opportunity for the UK’s offshore industries to lead on decarbonising Europe’s economies, maintaining high-value jobs and avoiding climate chaos. The UK has been through three cycles of detailed engineering and finance appraisal to design projects which can securely store carbon. In the remainder of 2018, we can now move on to development.

“This includes projects, such as Acorn in north east Scotland, where recent studies [3] show that infrastructure and geology can support a large-scale CCS network for permanently storing carbon from Europe as well as the UK. This opens the door to clean heat and transport, and a new generation of low-carbon manufacturing and chemical industries. And work is now underway to evaluate the potential for low-carbon hydrogen production from natural gas brought ashore at the St Fergus Gas Terminal.

“The UK Government is rightly attempting to design a larger scale support system for CCS projects in different regions of the UK but that does not mean waiting. If the UK Government provides relatively low funding and matches Scottish Government finance and support, Acorn could begin operating in 2022. Importantly, this will support the UK oil and gas industry’s just transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Media contact

Indira Mann

SCCS Communications & Knowledge Exchange Executive

T: +44 (0) 131 651 4041 / +44 (0)7795 882 125

[1] UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report SR15:

[2] Summit Power report, Clean Air, Clean Industry, Clean Growth: How Carbon Capture Will Boost the UK Economy, October 2017:

[3] ACT Acorn project outputs reports:

Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) is a research partnership of British Geological Survey, Heriot-Watt University, University of Aberdeen, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde. Its researchers are engaged in high-level CCS research as well as joint projects with industry to support the development and commercialisation of CCS as a climate mitigation technology.