Geological formations under the North Sea could store more than a century’s worth of carbon dioxide emissions from British power stations, the Department for Energy and Climate Change has said.
Instead of releasing the gas into the atmosphere, it could be transported to underwater sites through a process called carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Although untested at scale, it is hoped the process could significantly reduce emissions from fossil fuels, which still generate the main chunk of electricity globally.
In October, London will host a meeting of energy and environment ministers from 23 nations to discuss international co-operation on CCS ahead of December’s crunch talks on reducing climate change emissions in Copenhagen.
A consultation on how exploration, development and management of potential sites can be carried out safely and effectively is being launched by the energy department.
Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “We are also working closely with Norway and other North Sea Basin countries to ensure the North Sea fulfils its potential in the deployment of CCS in Europe.
“We want to get the UK regulatory framework in place so we can harness that potential and make the North Sea part of the CCS revolution.”
Up to 90% of emissions from fossil-fuelled power plants such as coal-fired stations could be reduced with CCS, which he added provides the only solution to climate change.