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Can UK Acorn carbon capture project grow into solution to industry emissions?

With CCS seen as critical to reaching net zero by 2050, Angeli Mehta looks at prospects for scaling up the technology around the world

Every new report on climate change makes depressing reading, but scientists have given us route maps to get to net zero by 2050. Nearly all of these rely on a technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS). It’s being used today, and it works, but it urgently needs to be scaled up if we’re to prevent catastrophic climate change within the next 12 years.

“We need to stop burning fossil fuels or start sequestering carbon dioxide – or both. That’s it: conversation over,” says Chris Stark, chief executive of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change. “We’ve said to the government that they mustn’t plan for any 2050 scenario without CCS.”

Stark was speaking in January at the launch of the findings of an EU-backed study identifying a potential UK hub for transporting and storing emissions. Project Acorn has examined the UK’s huge carbon dioxide storage potential, and homed in on the St Fergus gas-processing plant on the north-east coast of Scotland, where one-third of the UK’s gas supply comes ashore.

If you’re looking for a decarbonised solution, having a transport and storage infrastructure operating makes the investment decision much easier

Several nearby pipelines, which would otherwise be decommissioned as gas fields run out, could be repurposed to take carbon dioxide in the opposite direction, storing it in deep geological formations under the North Sea.

Reuse of the onshore and offshore pipelines that serve St Fergus could save £730m compared with building new ones, as well as avoiding decommissioning costs and reducing environmental impacts.