The government has said that the UK’s first carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) plants should be commissioned by the mid-2020s.

The project is the centrepiece of an action plan for the sector, which is due to be launched at an international carbon capture summit in Edinburgh later today (28 November).

More than 50 international leaders and chief executives of energy companies, manufacturers and finance firms have gathered in the Scottish capital to discuss the next steps in rolling out the technology. The summit is being hosted by the UK with the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The action plan commits the UK to:

  • set out next year how to enable the UK’s first CCUS facility;
  • invest £20 million in supporting construction of CCUS technologies at industrial sites across the UK, as part of £45 million commitment to innovation;
  • invest £315 million in decarbonising industrial sites, including the potential to use CCUS;
  • begin work with the Oil and Gas Authority, industry and the Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland to identify existing oil and gas infrastructure which could be transformed for CCUS projects.

The UK government is also announcing £175,000 of investment in Project Acorn in St Fergus, Scotland, to develop ways of transporting carbon emissions from where they are captured to storage facilities.

This investment will be matched by the Scottish government and the European Commission will also provide funding.

The publication of the action plan follows the government’s commitment in the Industrial Strategy, published a year ago yesterday, to earmark £200 million for supporting the development of the CCUS sector.

That in turn followed the cancellation in 2015 by the Conservative government of £1 billion, which was pledged under the coalition to support the sector.

Earlier this week Drax announced that work would start on commissioning a bioenergy CCS pilot plant which is designed to turn its power station in North Yorkshire into the world’s first negative emissions plant.

Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry said that the UK is setting a “world-leading ambition” for developing and deploying carbon capture and storage technology.

Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA said: “Without CCUS as part of the solution, reaching our international climate goals is practically impossible. CCUS can also enhance energy security and boost economic prosperity. Yet up until now, progress has been muted and if this continues, the challenges we face in the energy sector will become infinitely greater.

“That is why the IEA is bringing together industry, governments and our own technology network – as well as the investment community – to make CCUS a reality.”

A spokesperson for the National Infrastructure Commission said a trial to manufacture hydrogen using carbon capture should be carried out alongside the establishment of the CCUS plant.

“We’re pleased to see a commitment from ministers to invest in carbon capture and storage, and to examine how this new technology could be applied to industrial sites and existing oil and gas infrastructure.

“As well as these, we’d like to see the plan aligned with our recommendation to conduct a large-scale trial to explore manufacturing hydrogen with carbon capture and storage in the early 2020s, to test the viability of using this as an alternative to natural gas for the UK’s heating supply.

“This could make a real impact in meeting our climate change targets both in the short term and long into the future.”

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