LARGE parts of the North Sea bed have been identified for offshore carbon storage, with 20 sites awarded licences.

The underground sites equate to an area slightly larger than Yorkshire, some 12,000 square kilometres.

Some are located off the north east of Scotland, while others are off the shores of Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire.

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) says the sites could one day store 10% of the UK’s annual CO2 emissions.

The first injection into the subsurface storage areas could come this decade.

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As well as geology, the sites were selected based on their proximity to existing offshore infrastructure.

However further approvals will need to be sought before any carbon capture and storage process can go ahead.

NSTA chief executive Stuart Payne said: “This is an exciting and important day. As a nation, we cannot meet our decarbonisation targets without carbon storage.

“This is net-zero delivery in action.

“The awards we offer today could store around 10% of the UK’s emissions, and through our engagement with applicants, we will have committed work plans in place such as seismic surveys and drilling of wells – we are working with industry to move at real pace.

“The UK’s offshore waters remain the crown jewel of our energy mix, providing energy security, emissions reduction and carbon storage.

“We look forward to working with these licensees to make these projects a reality as soon as possible and to opening more carbon storage rounds in the near future – my thanks to our teams and industry for their great work, but this is just the beginning.”

Energy efficiency Lord Callanan said: “Thanks to the Government’s unprecedented £20 billion investment in early-stage carbon capture and storage development, we are in prime position to take advantage of the geological goldmine beneath our shores to store CO2, and grow our economy by becoming world leaders in this developing industry.

“These new licences, together with fresh powers granted to NSTA within the landmark Energy Bill, will develop our most comprehensive picture yet of UK’s carbon capture and storage potential, strengthening our energy security and cutting emissions while creating thousands of skilled British jobs.”