SAC OG reportScottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) welcomes today’s report from the Scottish Affairs Committee on the future of the oil and gas industry, and is pleased to see that it recognises carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an essential part of the industry's future.

Depleted oil and gas fields can be used to securely store carbon dioxide (CO₂), keeping it out of the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years and making a huge contribution to climate change targets. The skills, knowledge and expertise that have been built up in the North Sea oil and gas industry over decades will be crucial to enabling the UK to develop CCS, allowing workers to transition to low-carbon jobs as production winds down.

CCS has been technically proven: the only barrier remaining now is cost. However, with experts agreeing that CCS will be crucial if the UK is to meet its climate change targets, it is clear that government and industry need to act now. Costs can be reduced by re-using gas pipelines that are nearing the end of their life - putting them to use rather than removing and decommissioning them. The oil and gas sector deal - based on the industry’s “Vision 2035” - is a vital opportunity for the sector to look to the future and make real strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from across the UK.

SCCS gave written and oral evidence to the committee, where we expressed our concerns that progress on deploying CCS has been too slow and that a lack of clarity around where responsibilities lie within government departments has meant that opportunities to reduce the cost of CCS are now at risk.

It is clear from the report that the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, is keen to find solutions to the problems around deploying carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), and the Committee makes a number of recommendations to government that address our concerns:

  • That the oil and gas sector deal should include a detailed proposal on how the three centres of excellence could support the deployment of CCUS
  • That the Government should be clear on how it will fund CCUS, and what lessons it has learned from previous CCS competitions
  • That the Oil and Gas Authority should take a more proactive approach to encouraging the re-use of oil and gas infrastructure for CCUS, and that the Government should consider underwriting liability for this infrastructure

Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage and SCCS Director, said:

The Scottish Affairs Committee report recognises the immense monetary, and social, and skills value that offshore hydrocarbons and engineering could still bring to Scotland and the UK. In an exceptional step, the Committee poses a challenge to the hydrocarbon industry: to convert its skills, equipment and construction ability and develop carbon capture and storage. This requires Transformational Technology as part of “Vision 2035”.

All predictions of future energy use and climate change involve the need for geologically storing massive amounts of carbon for geologically long periods. These actions are essential and inevitable, if we want to keep thousands of jobs in industry and tens of thousands of jobs supporting offshore work, and want to have low-cost and flexible heat, electricity and transport.

Scotland and the UK can be leading beneficiaries of CCS by making the right business decision, which is also the right environmental decision. CCS will enable a Just Transition for the people of Scotland, supporting the move away from oil and gas towards a future that has stable, high-value local employment while delivering reduced or net-zero carbon budgets.

This future vision is already waiting and ready to develop. The Acorn project in north east Scotland can be operating by 2023 and, by re-use of oil and gas pipelines and knowledge, delivered at a half or a third of the cost of similar projects in Norway or the Netherlands. Acorn can also be operating five years earlier than more complex projects in England.

Injection of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, especially with the correct choices on Enhanced Oil Recovery, is a big step towards balancing the adverse carbon effects of producing the remaining accessible oil.

There is a very serious risk that complex requirements from the UK Government can create a delay into the late 2020s, by which time the Acorn opportunity will have been decommissioned and large amounts of public money wasted. A Sector Deal from Westminster can support clean technology and provide climate security for the UK - that can be realised by storing in Scotland.

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