UK

Sunak commits to future North Sea licensing – but also backs carbon capture

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has committed to future oil and gas licensing rounds in the North Sea – but has also backed two further carbon capture projects (Alberto Pezzali/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has committed to future oil and gas licensing rounds in the North Sea – but has also backed two further carbon capture projects (Alberto Pezzali/PA) Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has committed to future oil and gas licensing rounds in the North Sea – but has also backed two further carbon capture projects (Alberto Pezzali/PA)

Rishi Sunak has backed future oil and gas development in the North Sea but also announced two further carbon capture and storage projects would go ahead as part of the drive for net zero.

The Government has now committed to providing up to £20 billion of funding for early deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), with the Acorn project in Scotland’s north east now receiving support, along with the Viking project in the Humber.

They become the third and fourth such projects to be backed by the UK Government, with the announcement coming as Mr Sunak committed to future oil and gas licensing rounds for the North Sea.

The Government, together with the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) stressed future licensing would continue to be subject to a climate compatibility test.

But environmental protesters, including Greta Thunberg, are already insisting that permission should not be given to develop the Rosebank oil and gas field to the west of Shetland.

Mr Sunak however insisted that having new licensing rounds was “absolutely the right thing to do”.

The Prime Minister told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Even when we reach net zero in 2050 a quarter of our energy needs will still come from oil and gas, and domestic has production has about a quarter of a third of the carbon footprint of imported gas.

“So not only is it better on our energy security not to rely on foreign dictators for that energy, not only is it good for jobs, particularly Scottish jobs, it is actually better for the environment because there is no point in importing stuff from half way around the world with two to three times the carbon footprint of the stuff we’ve got at home, that makes absolutely no sense.”

The Prime Minister, who is visiting Aberdeenshire on Monday, insisted: “This is about is strengthening our energy security for the whole of the United Kingdom.

“We’ve seen over the last year the impact of (Vladimir) Putin’s war, we don’t want to be in hock to dictators like that when it comes to our energy and an important part of guarding against that is investing in our North Sea.

“And that’s what today’s announcement is about, making sure that we have future oil and gas licensing rounds.”

He added it was “important that we get energy from here at home”, stressing that the sector supports 200,000 jobs.

With the further investment in CCUS including the Acorn project, he added: “That’s going to be great for Scottish jobs and help us transition to net zero.”