Hydrogen partners ScottishPower and Storegga have backed Opportunity Cromarty Firth’s (OCF) green freeport bid although the carbon storage specialist is also supporting a rival Aberdeen and Peterhead harbour application.
The green hydrogen developers maintain OCF green freeport status would have the potential to bring forward more than £1 billion of investment in a larger-scale plant by up to 10 years and place the Highlands at the centre of future large-scale production of the sustainable energy due to the region’s growth potential of offshore wind.
However, Storegga is backing two horses, also throwing its weight behind a rival green freeport submission from a consortium taking in harbours in Aberdeen and Peterhead, adopting the stance both bids are key to decarbonisation.
The North East Scotland Green Freeport (NESGF) consortium is bidding for one of just two allocations to Scotland and if successful, would support a range of potential low carbon energy developments including the Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.
This was overlooked last year in a competition led by the UK government in favour of two projects in the north of England.
“Storegga is supporting the green freeport bids for both the Cromarty and NESGF consortia as both are key to decarbonising our current national and international fossil fuel usage,” insisted Storegga head of hydrogen Andrew Brown.
“It is vital we support as many routes to net zero as possible.”
Potential for thousands of supply jobs
ScottishPower and Storegga’s plans would develop the UK’s largest green hydrogen electrolyser plant on the Cromarty Firth and potentially create thousands of supply jobs during construction.
The project’s initial phase would see the facility produce up to 50 megawatts (MW) of green hydrogen to be used in heating processes in nearby whisky distilleries.
“Green freeport status for Inverness and the Cromarty Firth could bring forward investment of more than £1bn and help secure the UK’s position as a global leader and leading exporter of this clean fuel alternative,” added Mr Brown.
“We have big ambitions for our planned green hydrogen facility on the Cromarty Firth and we welcome any developments that could help fast-track both the switch to this green fuel at home and grow an export market.”
ScottishPower and Storegga’s first electrolyser plant on the Cromarty Firth, capable of producing up to 20 tonnes of green hydrogen a day, is expected to be operational in 2024 and will be the largest electrolyser in the UK.
It has been planned with a view to a series of modular expansions that would increase its output from 30MW to 300MW and beyond, offering potential applications for local manufacturing, food production and industrial heating.
The Cromarty Hydrogen Project follows a feasibility study by Storegga in collaboration with ScottishPower, Port of Cromarty Firth, and the three Scotch whisky distillers, Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo, all of which have operations in the area.
Whisky distillers collaborating in hydrogen project
Commenting on behalf of OCF, Port of Cromarty Firth chief executive, Bob Buskie, added: “These projects demonstrate the enormous potential of Scotland’s rapidly developing green hydrogen industry and place the Cromarty Firth and the Highlands at the heart of that clean energy revolution.
“ScottishPower and Storegga are developing a transformational project in our area, which will provide green hydrogen for heating processes in whisky distilleries.
“That development has been designed with future expansion in mind that would bring regional and national energy security, clean fuels, green careers and supply chain opportunities.
“We are in absolutely no doubt winning green freeport status is key to turning the even larger scale 1GW vision into a reality here at pace.”
The OCF consortium is backed by Port of Cromarty Firth owners, Global Energy Group, Port of Inverness and The Highland Council, alongside Inverness Airport, Inverness Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen regional businesses, public sector organisations and academic bodies.