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Report (3rd Day)

Part of Infrastructure Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 10th November 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Verma Baroness Verma The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 4:30 pm, 10th November 2014

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for proposing these amendments and all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. It gives me the opportunity to respond in full to both amendments in the group. They seek to extend the maximising economic principle objective to include,

“co-ordination of the transportation and storage of CO2”,

and would require,

“the establishment of a strategic vision for the permanent storage of CO2 in depleted fields”.

I reassure noble Lords that the UK has one of the most comprehensive programmes on CCS anywhere in the world in order to support the commercialisation of the technology and develop the industry. The programme includes a competition with up to £1 billion capital plus operational support for large CCS projects and a £125 million research, development and innovation programme. In addition, the Government set out how we are supporting the carbon capture and storage industry in a policy scoping document published in August. The document sought evidence and views from experts and stakeholders on a range of issues affecting the CCS industry going forward, including CCS with enhanced oil recovery. The deadline for submitting those views passed just over two weeks ago. Given that we are analysing the responses we have received and are in discussions with HM Treasury over its review of the fiscal regime for oil and gas, it would seem premature to make provision in primary legislation at this time.

The Government recognise that captured carbon dioxide could play a role in enhanced oil recovery, and likewise that enhanced oil recovery could play a role in the UK’s carbon capture and storage industry going forward, but the extent of any interaction between the CCS industry and the concept of maximising economic recovery of petroleum is not yet clear. Carbon dioxide transport and permanent geological storage is a nascent industry, so although it is important to promote the industry where possible it would be wrong to be too prescriptive now. That point was made eloquently by my noble friends Lord Jenkin and Lord Caithness. Further discussions with industry and the relevant trade associations are needed before we can say with certainty how the MER UK principle should apply to areas such as CCS.

The Oil and Gas Authority will have a significant function in considering the role of CCS when determining whether companies are operating in line with the maximising economic recovery strategy. The OGA will issue carbon dioxide storage site licences and approve carbon dioxide storage permit applications. It will also have responsibility to ensure that CCS is considered as part of a proposed decommissioning plan and will take into account the viability of utilising captured carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery projects. In addition, the transfer and storage of carbon dioxide is an important technology, which is why it is likely to form a key element of the technology and decommissioning sector strategies that will be developed by the OGA, in consultation with industry. These strategies will help to underpin the overarching strategy related to maximising economic recovery.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester asked how this would help us to meet our emissions reduction aims as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. Implementing recommendations contained in the Wood review will be done in a way compatible with the legally binding climate change targets. Our overarching energy strategy seeks to underpin secure and diverse energy supplies, including renewable, nuclear and indigenous resources. The carbon plan has shown that Britain will still need significant oil and gas supplies over the next decades while we decarbonise our economy and make a transition to a low-carbon one; projections show that in 2030 oil and gas will still be a vital part of the energy mix, providing around 70% of the UK’s primary energy requirements as we seek that transition.

The right reverend Prelate also asked about the costs of carbon capture. If he and noble Lords would allow it I would like to write to him and ensure that the Committee gets sight of the letter.

Having given those reassurances and demonstrated that the Government see that carbon capture storage will be a part of our strategy in the future, though we are still at an early stage, I hope that the noble Baroness can be persuaded to withdraw her amendment.