Scottish business leaders have joined forces with billionaire Sir Ian Wood to demand that the north-east be made the centre of plans to decarbonise the UK energy system.
Ten senior representatives of business organisations including Sir Ian have signed a letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to give his backing to an ambitious project to capture and store carbon using facilities across the north-east including St Fergus gas terminal.
Westminster is preparing to unveil a £1billion investment in carbon storage projects as part of a competition designed to ensure the UK meets its net zero emission targets. Key to this will be the ability to ensure carbon-intensive industries such as oil and gas and the production of concrete can can still be maintained while reducing, removing and storing carbon emissions produced.
The outcome of the Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) track 1 programme decision is expected later this month with a number of projects competing.
The “Track 1” projects will be deployed by the mid-2020s and those selected will be eligible to negotiate support from the Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund as well as be primed to attract private sector funding.
The Acorn carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) project in Aberdeenshire is vying to be among the first two projects chosen. It aims to take industrial emissions and store them in depleted gas reservoirs in the North Sea.
Another competing project in the North East of England, Net Zero Teesside is also thought to be a front runner in the competition.
The letter, signed by leaders from Opportunity North East, CBI Scotland, IoD Scotland, Net Zero Technology Centre, Scottish Chambers of Commerce and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, comes at a critical time as the UK government prepares for the Cop26 event in Glasgow at the end of the month and the Treasury finalises its autumn budget, which will also be announced at the end of October.
Protecting north-east jobs
The letter to Mr Johnson argues that the project, known as the Scottish cluster, offers the opportunity to “create, safeguard and continue to support” tens of thousands of high skill jobs, both directly and across the existing energy industry supply chain in the north east as well as across Scotland.
In an appeal to a government that has spent billions in order to manage the Covid pandemic, it also sets out that Scotland is the most cost-effective place to launch CCS, which is still a fledgling technology. This is largely due to the capacity for CO2 storage in the North Sea and the possibilities of reusing existing oil and gas infrastructure for CO2 transport and storage, an essential part of the transition from oil and gas use to low carbon energies such as hydrogen.
Highlighting some other unique aspects of the north-east proposal, the missive sets out Acorn’s plan to suck up to one million tonnes of CO2 every year through a new technology known as “direct air capture” (DAC).
It argues that a “successful Scottish bid will accelerate these plans and ensure the UK is home to the largest DAC facility in Europe and depending on the final configuration, potentially the biggest in the world”.
The project also has cross sector support including that of the Scottish Government, the letter confirms.
Talent to deliver
Sir Ian, who is currently chairman of ETZ Ltd, a not-for-profit company behind a plan to create an Energy Transition Zone nearby to the new Aberdeen harbour expansion, said that the Acorn plan meant the region was “quite simply, the standout location” for the government investment.
He said: “With proven global expertise in delivering large offshore and onshore projects, we have the established infrastructure, existing talent pool, and business capability to deliver.
“It is hugely encouraging to have Scotland’s business community uniting behind the bid and we urge the UK Government to approve it as a priority.”
The other signatories to the letter are: Tracy Black, director, CBI Scotland; Sara Thiam
chief executive, Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI); Martin Gilbert, chairman, and Colette Cohen, chief executive, Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC); Louise Macdonald, national director, IoD Scotland; Liz Cameron, chief executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce; Jennifer Craw, chief executive, Opportunity North East; Russell Borthwick, chief executive, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce; Maggie McGinlay, chief executive, ETZ Ltd.