Two energy giants, two green projects: one double-booking in North Sea

By Rowena Edwards and Shadia Nasralla LONDON (Reuters) - Oil major BP plans to build a vast carbon capture project beneath the North Sea that would be crucial to

Britain hitting its emissions targets. Power giant Orsted aims to build a huge offshore windfarm to help the country meet renewable goals. The problem is, the seabed's

double-booked, and something has to give. Britain granted preliminary licences for both proposed projects more than a decade ago, when an overlap of about 110 sq km on the

sea floor wasn't seen as posing an insurmountable obstacle to either technology, according to planning documents reviewed by Reuters, the companies involved and UK authorities.

Now, though, a dispute is unfolding between BP and Orsted over primacy in this "Overlap Zone" shared by the Hornsea Four windfarm and Endurance carbon capture and storage

(CCS) sites off the English county of Yorkshire. The standoff has been fuelled by studies that highlighted the risk of boats used to monitor carbon leaks colliding with wind

turbines fixed to the sea floor. Last year the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), which regulates offshore energy activity, concluded that large crossovers between such

ventures were unfeasible with current technology. "At the time these rights were granted, it was unclear how the emergent technologies would develop," England's Crown Estate

licensing agency told Reuters, referring to the windfarm and CCS licences the government awarded in 2010 and 2011, respectively. BP is unwilling to switch to a costlier

boat-free monitoring system and Orsted to cede territory, with both saying such concessions would hit their commercial prospects.