Ambitious plans to develop green energy technology in Peterhead were given a boost after a government minister pledged to accelerate the second phase of the UK’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) rollout.
In an exchange in the House of Commons, the newly appointed climate minister Graham Stuart confirmed plans to speed up ‘track 2’ of the cluster sequencing process.
It is good news for Aberdeenshire’s Acorn CCS project, which is widely expected to be one of the projects selected as part of the next cohort.
During a debate on Tuesday, Sir Desmond Angus Swayne, Conservative Member of Parliament for the New Forest West, asked: “Will he (Mr Stuart) expedite the track 2 process for carbon capture and storage.”
In reply, Mr Stuart simply said: “Yes”.
There has been frustration about the government’s delay in publishing a timeline for the launch of track 2.
A senior figure at Shell, which has a stake in Acorn, told a committee in July that “urgent clarity” is needed on how the scheme can progress.
Around a year has now passed since the track 1 clusters – HyNet and the East Coast Cluster – were announced.
The aim is for the two schemes, located in the north of England, will be safely storing carbon from nearby emitters by the middle of the decade.
To the surprise and anger of many, particularly in the north-east, the Scottish Cluster, which includes Acorn, didn’t make the cut and was instead picked as the reserve cluster.
There are concerns this will delay the start-up of Acorn, based at the St Fergus gas plant, thereby hampering investment and job creation in the north-east.
SNP BEIS spokesperson, Stephen Flynn, has led calls for the Scottish Custer to be awarded funding and has written to the UK Government demanding key dates for the process are now unveiled.
Commenting, the Aberdeen South MP said: “This is undoubtedly very welcome news, but I am wary that we’ve had warm words before only to be let down.
“What we now need is for the UK Government to set out a timeline with key dates for the track 2 process including when successful bids will be announced.
The north-east cannot afford to be snubbed again by the UK Government.
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn
“The Scottish Cluster was the obvious choice for selection at Track 1 and holds an even stronger case now as part of the Track 2 process.
“The north-east cannot afford to be snubbed again by the UK Government and it is absolutely imperative to governments across these isles that the Scottish Cluster is taken forward.”
A number of energy schemes, including SSE Thermal’s Peterhead power station and the Grangemouth oil refinery, also plan to tap into the CCS system.
Having been picked as the reserve cluster, it is generally accepted, though not guaranteed, that the Scottish Cluster will be successful in Track 2.
A report released by trade body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) earlier this year identified the north-east as a potential epicentre for CCS.
It came with a warning though, that benefits arising from the industry, expected to be worth £100 billion, could vanish unless the pace of deployment in the UK quickens.