Britain has claimed to be the European CCS leader. The technology has been taken seriously for two decades. Its deployment commands strong cross-party support.

Opportunities for CO2 storage beneath the North Sea are plentiful. And a huge amount of work has been done by British civil servants to create what, on paper, might be the best financial support mechanism for CCS to be found anywhere.

Best of all, the U.K. government has not only announced a number of really good CCS front runner projects but has said that it will provide £20 billion to make CCS happen on a very extensive scale. £20 billion! Neither Norway, nor Denmark nor the Netherlands has come close to allocating so much money. CCS in Britain should be going great, so why has not even one Final Investment Decision been taken?

Ruth Herbert, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, used to be one of those British civil servants devising clever means to take CCS forward. The CCSA has struggled to survive in times past but with the renewed British enthusiasm for CCS it is now a well-resourced and effective lobby group.

So why is Ruth reduced to making statements about the UK's government latest budget announcement being "a missed opportunity"?

“The UK’s CCUS industry is still waiting for the funding announced in last year’s spring budget to be committed to projects, with final investment decisions for projects in the north-west and north-east of England needed in the next few months,” she said this month.

"There are pending decisions on eight projects representing around one third of the UK’s 2030 target for CO2 storage. With lead-in times of 6-7 years for CO2 storage sites and 3-4 years for capture projects, time is running out to meet 2030 targets.

"Without further urgent action the UK is in danger of missing out on CCUS investment," said Ruth. Is that £20 billion promised by the British government real money, or just another mirage?

Some of us have been here before. We remember that prime minister David Cameron told the UN General Assembly some 13 years ago that Britain had actually spent £1 billion on supporting CCS, when in fact the government of the day had simply said that the money would be made available. And at the time it was available, until it wasn't. In 2015 the British Chancellor (finance minister) cancelled the offer on a whim, scrapping the White Rose and Peterhead CCS projects in the process. Is it going to be different this time? Are serious sums of money going to be contractually committed to supporting CCS projects before the coming general election? Will the next British government, facing huge financial difficulties, feel better able to make the money available? Or are a great many investors, companies and individuals that have devoted time, energy and money into making CCS play a major role in reducing CO2 emissions going to be severely disappointed?

This should not be the case. If the UK's CO2 reduction targets are to be met the politicians will have to deliver on CCS.

But with such an abysmal track record when it comes to delivery maybe we should not assume it will happen. Instead, let's raise a glass to the governments of Denmark, the Netherlands and to Norway, whose support for CCS amounts to more than words.

Chris Davies
Director, CCS Europe