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expert reaction to government announcement on CCS

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced millions of pounds of investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities in North East Scotland and the Humber.


Prof Geoffrey Maitland FREng, Professor of Energy Engineering at Imperial College London, said:

“The government announcement this morning that significant funding will be made available for two carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in Scotland (the Acorn project) and on Humberside (the Viking project) is excellent news for keeping the UK on track for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  The Committee on Climate Change and all credible decarbonisation scenarios state that this target will not be achieved without large-scale CCS implementation and after decades of false starts and indecision, it is good to see the UK government at last giving their support to this essential technology.  The immediate target is to capture and store 20-30 Mte of CO2 pa by 2030 (up to 180 Mte pa by 2050) and these two projects will contribute a significant fraction of that (more than a third).  Not only will they be essential for achieving the UK’s net-zero target but they will also create tens of thousands of new jobs in these areas as well as safeguarding even more high-value industrial jobs which are at risk if we curtail the use of oil and gas to manufacture the products like cement, steel and refined chemicals that are essential to the quality and affordability of life that the people expect and often take for granted. 

“An area which could do with further clarification from the government is the precise funding they are putting into these two CCS projects.  The statement simply refers to ‘many millions of pounds’.  To get these projects in place as soon as possible requires billions of pounds investment, so exactly how much will go to the company consortia involved and is there any new money in addition to the £20bn over 20 years committed to CCS in the 2023 budget?

“It will take decades to produce all the energy and manufactured products we need from renewable, non-fossil fuel sources and, whilst we should not reduce in any way the speed of implementation of wind and solar energy and the use of sustainable (biomass) feedstocks for chemical manufacturing, the ability of CCS to ensure that CO2 from fossil fuels is not released to the atmosphere as we continue to use oil and more gas in this crucial energy transition period, lasting many decades, will ensure that we can continue to decarbonise at the rate needed without detracting from the quality of life the UK population expect in a way that also keeps the cost of energy and manufactured products down and addresses cost of living issues. A UK CCS industry will also generate extra revenue through having the capacity to store CO2 for other countries who do not have offshore CO2 storage capacity so must pay to store safely the CO2 they must capture to decarbonise their own industries.”


Dr Stuart Gilfillan, Reader in Geochemistry at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“Whilst it is fantastic to see this much-needed investment in carbon capture and storage, it is extremely disappointing to have it used as a headline grabbing smokescreen to distract from a further oil and gas licensing round.

“If Rishi Sunak and his government were truly serious about meeting net-zero, then he would mandate the capture and storage of all of the CO2 emissions that will result from these new licenses as a condition of them being awarded.

“This is the only climate-compatible way for the UK to continue to extract fossil fuels, whilst developing the UK carbon capture and storage expertise urgently needed for a net-zero future.”


Prof Cameron Hepburn, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford:

“If the Government wants to prioritise the environment, energy security and jobs then it should double down on renewables. Solar and wind are already the cheapest forms of electricity in the UK and the faster we transition, the more money we will save. The evidence so far also suggests that green jobs are likely to benefit from higher wages with less susceptibility to automation. By tying ourselves to fossil fuels for the longer term, we risk being left behind as the world races to a clean energy future.”


Dr Steve Smith, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford:

“When it comes to public acceptance of carbon capture and storage (CCS), studies show that first impressions are important. If people hear of it first as a delaying tactic that may stick, even in the face of further information. So it was unfortunate and risky for the PM to announce two new CCS facilities alongside 100 new oil & gas licenses, while making some overtly pro-flight and pro-car statements.”


Prof Myles Allen FRS, Professor of Geosystem Sciences, University of Oxford, said:

“Great to see much-needed investment in carbon capture, but why does the taxpayer need to foot the bill when the main beneficiaries are precisely those companies looking for new oil and gas licenses?

“The solution is increasingly obvious: make new extraction conditional on responsible CO2 disposal. At current prices, extractors can certainly afford it!”


Prof Paul Fennell, Professor of clean energy at Imperial College London, said:

“I welcome the announcement on carbon capture, which is important for the future and allows some sectors such as steel and cement which produce important things which are not easily substitutable by other materials, and which intrinsically produce CO2, to continue.  We need every arrow in the armory.

“I abhor the implicit connection with new oil and gas licences.”


Prof Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“A deal with the devil is not wanted here. It’s essential to ensure that this carbon storage with Acorn or Viking projects provide a genuine decrease of emissions. Storage of 2 or 5 million tonnes CO2 per year should not become a policy excuse to release additional 10’s or 100’s million tonnes CO2 from development of new oil and gas extraction through many tens of new licences.  If Rosebank field (Equinor) goes ahead that is 200 Million tonnes of extra CO2, if Jackdaw field (Shell) is developed that is 70 million tonnes extra CO2. The Government needs to be committed to implementing a Carbon Take Back Obligation” where there is an arithmetic balance that one ton of carbon extracted is balanced by one ton of carbon stored by CCS – back underground where the carbon came from.”


Prof Jon Gibbins, Professor of CCS, University of Sheffield, said:

“Government commitment to a third pipeline system to transport captured CO2 to secure offshore storage will greatly aid rapid UK rollout of this key technology and, even more importantly, sends a global message that carbon capture and storage (CCS) can be used to break the link between fossil fuel use and the CO2 emissions that are causing dangerous climate change.  The UK is one of the global leaders in CCS deployment.  Once CCS is seen to be working successfully at scale then the current, technologically limited, dialogue on how to tackle climate change will be transformed.”



Declared interests

Geoffrey Maitland: “My research on CCS used to be sponsored by Shell (2006-2018) but I no longer receive research funding from the oil and gas industry.”

Stuart Gilfillan has received funding from TotalEnergies in the past, for research related to CO2 origins in the subsurface and reservoir connectivity. He currently receives funding from the Natural Environment Research Council and Carbfix on CO2 mineralisation, Equinor on CO2 dissolution in natural CO2 reservoirs and The Coal Authority on minewater heat.

Stuart Haszeldine receives no funding form any of these oil company developers. He receives funding from UK research councils.

Paul Fennell: “none to declare.”

Myles Allen: “none to declare.”

Jon Gibbins:

  • “No direct interests in any of the CCS projects that will be supported (or any others).
  • I am working on a DESNZ (ex BEIS) project with SSE, FOCUSS  that may have its results incorporated in the proposed power plant at Peterhead.
  • While at the University of Edinburgh 2009-2015 I was active in suggesting some of the projects now being considered and promoting CCS in Scotland generally.
  • As a professor working in the field of CCS it is likely that UK CCS deployment generally will lead to extra opportunities for me related to research work and advice.”

For all other experts, no reply to our request for declarations of interest were received.


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