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Collaboration is key: Why the UK ‘cluster’ approach to carbon capture storage is a great idea

Collaboration is key: Why the UK ‘cluster’ approach to carbon capture storage is a great idea

A key plank of the UK government’s ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is the ability to capture and store carbon before it is released into the atmosphere. It has set a carbon capture target of up to 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2030.

To encourage investment in the area and bring down costs, the government has announced a £1 billion (US$1.4 billion) scheme for carbon capture utilization and storage projects. It intends to deploy carbon capture through clusters, which it defines as including a first phase of at least two carbon capture projects, and a transmission and storage network involving both onshore and offshore pipelines and storage capability. This approach allows it to direct funding to areas of greatest potential impact, helping some of the UK’s heavy industrial regions decarbonize and ensuring a socially just transition.

The scheme also encourages collaboration by bringing different bodies together. For success, these groups will need to share information and best practices.

Two projects have been selected for fast tracked funding under Track 1 of the scheme. These are the East Coast cluster in the Humber and Teesside and the Hynet cluster in the North West of England and north Wales.  There are another three clusters in development.  The East Coast cluster alone has the potential to capture nearly 50 percent of UK industrial carbon emissions, and its transition is essential if the UK is to meet its zero carbon goals.  AECOM has supported the development of the Teesside cluster network since the very start of that project.

While this announcement is welcome, it’s important that the government provides clear signals to the other clusters and their investors that they should continue to develop at the pace required. At a COP fringe event organized by the utility company and energy supplier SSE on CCUS and hydrogen deployment, we discussed that more clarity is urgently needed to unlock much needed private investment in the deployment of CCUS.  This in turn unlocks the deployment of hydrogen, initially through blue hydrogen but then transitioning to green hydrogen.

SSE are at the forefront of developing low carbon power stations to complement the increased deployment of renewables to provide the UK’s electricity, and AECOM have been working with them on the development of the Keadby 3 and Peterhead carbon capture power station projects.

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