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Acorn: Business leaders tell government to get a move on with north-east carbon capture scheme

Westminster summit highlights need for swifter action on innovative north-east project.

Westminster business summit
Yesterday's event in the House of Commons was led by Peterhead Port. Image: Peterhead Port

Energy industry leaders have renewed their calls for action on funding for the stymied Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Aberdeenshire.

The ambitious green development is earmarked for St Fergus gas terminal, near Peterhead.

It is widely expected to be picked for Track 2 of a £1 billion funding competition from the UK Government.

But no action has been delivered nearly two years since the first round.

Calls for faster action on Acorn renewed at Westminster summit

A Westminster business summit held yesterday saw developer Storegga, trade body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), offshore regulator the North Sea Transition Authority, Peterhead Port and others team up in fresh calls for progress to avoid investor “fatigue”.

Storegga chief operating officer Steve Murphy said the innovative project could create 18,000 long-term jobs and see £8-12 billion of investment in the UK over a decade.

But investors may suffer “fatigue” as they wait for it to finally get approval from the government, he warned.

UK in danger of losing ground in global race for green technologies

Mr Murphy also highlighted fears that momentum is being lost in the UK.

Other countries, like the US are doing more to encourage inward investment in their own nascent carbon capture programmes, he said.

He added: “The timing is critical – we need help from government to maintain that momentum and reassurance now that the (Acorn) project is going to get approval.”

acorn ccs
Banff and Buchan Conservative MP David Duguid.

Levelling up Secretary Michael Gove submitted a video for the event which played up the need for “more investment in oil and gas at the moment in order to ensure effective transition”.

But it did not provide any new clarity on timelines.

However, Banff and Buchan Conservative MP David Duguid insisted a Track 2 update was still coming this summer.

The government has frequently pledged updates on the process over the past two years.

Where’s the progress?

Last November, Stuart Haszeldine, director at trade body Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, claimed civil servants were having “to fight strongly inside Westminster” to keep Acorn CCS in the package of funded projects.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in his Spring Budget in March that details of funding would be announced “shortly”.

Also in March, the government said Acorn was a “leading contender” for Track 2.

It is currently on a “reserve” list should one of the Track 1 “cluster” projects pull out.

Acorn is the lead project for a Scottish cluster aimed at decarbonising heavy emitters including Ineos’ petrochemicals plant at Grangemouth.

acorn ccs
St Fergus gas terminal near Peterhead.

Speaking at the House of Commons event yesterday, OEUK chief executive David Whitehouse warned the UK is in a global race for green energy investment.

Other countries are keen to lead the way on energy transition, and CCS in particular, he said.

He added: “We have to make the North Sea a brilliant place to invest.

“We are competing with the US, EU and Japan, among others. There are opportunities and battles that we need to win.”

Peterhead Port CEO Simon Brebner also called on the government to back the project.

Mr Brebner said: “We are in a geographic sweet spot for the energy transition and can help businesses make the transition fairly effectively. This project is critical in helping reduce greenhouse emissions.”

‘Dithering and delay’

Acorn CCS
First Minister Humza Yousaf. Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

First Minister Humza Yousaf has also called for swifter action on Acorn.

Visiting Peterhead power station yesterday, Mr Yousaf said: “Scotland’s net-zero future is being held back by UK Government dithering and delay.

“The Acorn scheme should be given approval now, so that we can take advantage of our unrivalled access to a vast CO2 storage potential, and our opportunities to repurpose existing oil and gas infrastructure.

“CCS will play a pivotal role in achieving a just transition for our workforces, capitalising on existing world-leading skills and expertise to create many good, green jobs in the coming years.”