Transforming depleted natural gas fields into international carbon storage cluster
Spirit Energy, the joint venture energy company of Centrica plc and Stadtwerke München GmbH (SWM), has today (Tuesday 31st January) confirmed its plan to convert its depleted South Morecambe and North Morecambe gas fields and Barrow Terminals into a world-class carbon storage cluster.
If granted a licence by the North Sea Transition Authority and subject to other regulatory approvals, the project will support the UK’s Net Zero ambitions and is expected to support thousands of highly skilled green jobs in Cumbria and the North West, as well as jobs in Spirit Energy’s Aberdeen office. It will provide a multi-billion-pound investment in the local economy, promoting growth and further investment across the region.
The cluster will provide a carbon storage solution for the UK’s industrial heartlands and is set to be one of the biggest carbon storage and hydrogen production clusters in the UK. Under current projections, the project has the capacity to store up to one gigaton of CO₂ - which equates to roughly three years’ worth of UK CO₂ current emissions. This will enable emitters within carbon-intensive industries, including the North West, South Wales, and the Solent, to store their carbon emissions for the long-term.
Thanks to the location of the site near the Port of Barrow, the project will be able to accept CO₂ transported by ship. This will mean industrial sites which do not have a direct connection to a CO₂ pipeline can access a feasible and realistic solution to deal with their carbon emissions, remain profitable and meet climate change goals.
The project is backed by Spirit Energy’s shareholders — Centrica plc, the majority shareholder, and SWM — and will put the companies at the forefront of decarbonisation efforts in the UK.
Neil McCulloch, CEO of Spirit Energy, said: “Our project will introduce cost-effective decarbonisation to businesses all over the UK, with a multi-billion-pound facility which means that a connection to a CO₂ export pipeline is no longer necessary to access carbon storage. Our new cluster will provide a solution for the UK’s industrial heartlands to reduce their carbon emissions, while also injecting significant green investment into Cumbria and the North West of England, where we have a proud history of working closely with the community and supporting local jobs and enterprise.”
Chris O’Shea, Chairman of the Board of Spirit Energy and CEO of Centrica plc, said: “This new cluster is a world-leading project that will promote growth, create jobs, and support the UK’s Net Zero ambitions. At Centrica, we are focussed on exploring how our assets can become an integral part of the energy transition to help our customers and the business achieve Net Zero. We’re pleased that this innovative project sets us up for long-term success to do just that.”
Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “The conversation about our climate is one which continues to, quite rightly, gather pace across Furness. I’ve long since campaigned for clean energy solutions and reducing our carbon footprint to meet the target of being net zero by 2050. It is great, therefore, to see a project of this scale come to Barrow and I look forward to seeing it develop. This new cluster will put Barrow on the map as a centre for low-carbon innovation, bringing thousands of high-quality jobs to our town and across the whole of Cumbria, while also securing future employment for those already working on the gas fields.”
Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Major businesses like Spirit Energy are backing Cumbria and channelling billions into our local economy. This new cluster will bring immense benefits to Cumbria - not only does it promise to create thousands of local jobs, it also has the potential to attract further international investment as the carbon storage cluster develops. I look forward to working with the Spirit and Centrica teams to continue to maximise the project benefits for people all over Cumbria.”
Spirit Energy is uniquely positioned to transform the gas fields, with 50 years of knowledge and data from operating the South Morecambe and North Morecambe fields. The company will continue to maximise the use of the gas fields until they are fully depleted to ensure continuity of domestic energy supply. The work on carbon storage will take place in tandem with gas production until the facility is predicted to cease production in the second half of the decade.
With the North and South Morecambe gas fields coming to the end of their productive life, the project will also harness the skills and knowledge of more than 300 workers currently based at the site and will provide continued job security with the new multi-billion-pound facility.
Additionally, the two gas fields have the potential to form the core of a future low-carbon hub, thanks to their location in the North West and connectivity in the area. Spirit Energy continues to explore opportunities such as blue hydrogen production, hydrogen power generation, direct air capture, and integration with renewable power generation which could expand the cluster, working in tandem with the carbon storage facility to help realise the area’s full potential.
About Spirit Energy
We are a pioneering energy company with two shareholding entities: Centrica plc (69%), and Stadtwerke München GmbH SWM (31%). We operate in the UK and the Netherlands, with a 700-strong team, and 20 producing field interests.
Our portfolio and ambitions span the breadth of the energy transition. We’re continuing to break new ground, collaborating and thinking differently. Our strategy is focused on: safely delivering production from our existing assets; meeting and de-risking our decommissioning obligations, and pursuing strategic energy transition opportunities from our existing assets.
We’re proud of our heritage. With more than 30 years of production, we’re maximising the potential of our existing assets and substantial gas reserves in the UK and Netherlands. Above all, we live by our commitment to safety in everything we do. Our portfolio is predominantly gas (96%), providing vital, primary energy to fuel our homes and businesses in the UK and Europe.