The UK North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has received 26 bids from a total of 19 companies to develop carbon dioxide (CO₂) storage offshore Britain, as part of the first licensing round.

The UK’s first-ever carbon storage licensing round, which was launched on 14 June 2022 and ended on 13 September 2022, offered 13 areas off the coasts of Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool, and Lincolnshire in the Southern North Sea, Northern North Sea, Central North Sea, and East Irish Sea.

The areas comprise a mix of saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas fields.

NSTA expects the new sites to contribute to the country’s aim of storing 20-30 million tonnes of CO₂ per year by 2030.

It estimates approximately 100 CO₂ stores could be needed for the country to achieve its 2050 net-zero emissions target.

NSTA exploration and new ventures head Nick Richardson said: “Carbon storage can play a big part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and awarding additional licences in 2023 will be a significant step forward.”

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The licences are expected to be awarded to the final bidder by early 2023 while first injection is anticipated as early as 2027.

Italy’s Eni said it applied for a carbon storage licence to store CO₂ at the Hewett depleted gas field in the Southern North Sea.

According to Eni, the Hewett field is expected to have a total CO₂ storage capacity of approximately 330 million tonnes.