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The CCUS opportunity: It's time to act

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This article was originally published in BusinessGreen on the 26th July 2018

Last week the Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) Cost Challenge Taskforce delivered its report, Delivering Clean Growth, to government for the development of CCUS in the UK. This report is one of the strands to realising the government's ambition articulated in the Clean Growth Strategy published in October 2017 and has galvanised the industry around a new way of thinking about CCUS for the UK.

As chair of the CCUS Taskforce and having been advising on energy issues over several decades, I was delighted to have the opportunity to see whether, as an industry, we could deliver to the government a new way of seeing the CCUS opportunity based on its intrinsic wider values, both as a tool for decarbonisation but also as a catalyst for new industries. Last week industry delivered a new vision for CCUS in the UK across a number of industries. Speaking at the launch of the report, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry called CCUS "one of the greatest industrial opportunities" for the UK for clean growth.

But this is just the start of what needs to remain an active and engaging process if the value CCUS can deliver is to become a reality for the UK.

 

What has become clear to me on this, as for so much of the action needed to address the adverse impacts of climate change, is that we are stronger together. And that waiting to act will just mean paying more later. The Paris Agreement on climate change recognises the need for global action if the planet's health is to be preserved. Similarly, for CCUS projects in the UK, coordinated action is needed to get the projects off the ground and operating at a commercial scale in the coming decade.

In the Taskforce we have developed the cluster approach. Instead of competing with one another, projects in a region should work together and with the local and regional authorities, to develop a series of projects that are appropriate within the place they are rooted. Some clusters can use existing infrastructure and save the costs of having to decommission existing North Sea oil and gas fields. Other locations work best for saving existing industries and creating a new way of seeing and valuing 'clean' products (such as 'clean' cement or 'clean' steel). Others, have the ability to unlock a whole new hydrogen economy.

Working together, we harness the synergies the various projects can offer - and we can reap the benefits of sharing large scale capital intensive infrastructure needed to unlock the CCUS industry at scale and to capture its value for the UK economy.

The UK's expertise and leadership in novel technologies is well known. Looking to the success story that is offshore wind for comparison, it too was once seen as an expensive experiment. But with sustained and stable government policy, an engaged and innovative industry and a supportive public, UK's offshore wind industry is now an envy of the world. CCUS also can be a success story for the UK - the question is whether the UK is brave enough to take those first few steps into the unknown and to do so before other countries have the courage to take the leap of faith.

That must be one of the questions the government will need to consider as it readies itself to welcome the global CCUS community to the CCUS conference in November this year. The UK has the ability to play a leading role in the development of a successful global CCUS industry. It can make the most of its extensive offshore storage capabilities and world-class oil and gas expertise. It can unlock the economic and societal benefits that CCUS clusters can generate. Having chaired the CCUS Taskforce and having seen at first hand the energy and enthusiasm of the CCUS industry, all of this is within reach.

With all of this, the UK has an opportunity, with the leadership and vision of its government and the resources of its experienced and ready-to-act industry members to make the CCUS opportunity a reality, and soon. If we are to achieve our decarbonisation objectives, the cost of doing nothing would be much more in the longer term.

Charlotte Morgan is energy and infrastructure partner at Linklaters and chair of the Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) Cost Challenge Taskforce