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UK government approves BP-led East Coast CCS cluster

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East Coast Cluster to begin operating by mid-2020s

UK authorities have approved plans led by BP for an 'East Coast Cluster' that would store CO2 from industrial sites in northeast England under the North Sea, one of several carbon capture and storage projects kick-started ahead of COP26 climate talks, project partners said Oct. 19.

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In a press release, the partners said the project had been given "Track-1" status, indicating deployment by the mid-2020s, by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

It reiterated the target of storing up to 27 million mt of CO2/year by 2030, equivalent to 50% of UK "industrial cluster" CO2 emissions.

BP is leading the Northern Endurance Partnership -- alongside Shell, TotalEnergies, Italy's Eni, Norway's Equinor and the National Grid -- which will be responsible for transport and storage of CO2 from two industrial carbon capture zones known as Zero Carbon Humber and Net Zero Teesside.

"The successful bid, led on behalf of the East Coast Cluster by the Northern Endurance Partnership, is a major step towards achieving the UK government's world-leading ambition to establish the first 'net zero' carbon industrial cluster in the UK by 2040," the statement said, adding the project would "create and support an average of 25,000 jobs/year between 2023 and 2050, with approximately 41,000 jobs at the project's peak in 2026."

The East Coast Cluster is one of several CCS projects kickstarted in the UK ahead of November's UN climate talks in Glasgow, after previous failed attempts to scale up the technology at industrial sites. Several of the projects are linked to proposed hydrogen fuel production projects; BP said in March it was considering developing the UK's largest 'blue' hydrogen production plant on Teesside, with gas as a feedstock.

Separately, Eni is leading a West Coast CCS project that would store CO2 in depleted gas fields in Liverpool Bay, Shell and Harbour Energy lead the 'Acorn' project on Scotland's East Coast, and Harbour also leads the V Net Zero project aimed at decarbonizing the Humber and Lindsey oil refineries.

Details of a second project due for "Track-1" designation were also expected shortly.

BP is the only global oil and gas major to specifically quantify its expectations of decline in its oil and gas production, saying it sees its upstream hydrocarbon output falling 40% by 2030.

Countries around the North Sea are trying to advance CCS as a means to achieving net-zero emissions, with Norway working on the Longship project involving Equinor, Shell and TotalEnergies. Critics say the UK still has to resolve some related regulatory issues, notably over liability for secure North Sea storage in the event of assets changing hands.