Calls to make the north-east the centre of plans to decarbonise the UK energy system have exposed fault lines between the SNP and Greens.
The Press and Journal revealed Scottish business leaders have joined forces with billionaire Sir Ian Wood to urge the Prime Minister to give his backing to a project to capture and store carbon using facilities across the north-east.
Boris Johnson has already hinted that the Acorn project in Aberdeenshire could be set to benefit from major government investment.
Carbon capture cluster
The proposals for the north-east to be a carbon capture hub, have drawn differing responses from the SNP and Greens, who chose to exclude oil and gas policy in their co-operation agreement.
However, Scottish Energy Secretary Michael Matheson, said the Scottish Government is “firmly supportive” of the bid and claimed it is “critical” that it be awarded funding from the UK Government.
Aberdeen South SNP MP Stephen Flynn said there should “really be no debate” that the north-east be home to the carbon capture cluster, as the region has the “industry expertise and infrastructure at the ready”.
However, Mark Ruskell, the Greens environment and climate spokesman, said a “focus on unproven, theoretical technology does nothing to tackle the climate crisis”.
In their latest manifesto, the party said it opposed public investment in carbon capture,utilisation and storage (CCUS) as it is “unproven and the vast majority of projects are linked to enhanced oil recovery”.
CCUS, a process of storing emissions underground, would see the Acorn project at the St Fergus Gas Terminal take industrial emissions and store them in depleted gas reservoirs in the North Sea.
The project is vying to be among the first two projects chosen when the UK Government confirms the carbon storage projects it will invest in later this month.
The Scottish Conservatives have called on both the UK and Scottish governments to back the proposals put forward by ten senior representatives of business organisations in Scotland, including Sir Ian.
Liam Kerr, the party’s spokesman on net zero, said the bid has “strong credentials to lead this technological revolution” and deliver on net zero obligations.
He added: “Business leaders in the area are fully committed to tackling climate change, while protecting vital jobs and growing the economy.
“This can help deliver the sustainable renewable jobs that the SNP have miserably failed to deliver.
“Their Green coalition partners are predictably against any form of carbon capture cluster.”
The UK Government has something of a chequered past when it comes to supporting CCS projects.
Between 2007 and 2015, it ran two competitions for support to develop CCS projects in the power sector, but both were controversially cancelled before the funding was awarded.
A project involving Shell and SSE at Peterhead Power Station had been competing with a scheme in North Yorkshire in the second contest, only for the £1 billion grant to be withdrawn.
Mr Flynn said the Tories “pulled the plug” on carbon capture in Peterhead six years ago and that the Acorn project “must be at the forefront of our net zero ambitions”.
He added: “If the Tories fail to deliver the funding the project needs then they will be making Scotland’s journey to net zero almost impossible.”
A just transition
Mr Ruskell, whose party is currently opposed to investment in carbon capture and stroage, said if the technology “is developed in the future then we should examine what role it can play”.
The Green MSP added: “But in the here and now we need to be investing in the technologies we already have to reduce emissions; that means electrifying railways, insulating homes and businesses and expanding Scotland’s renewable energy infrastructure and benefitting from the green jobs that can be delivered as part of a just transition.”
Liam McArthur, the Scottish Liberal Democrats climate emergency spokesman, claimed investment in projects such as carbon capture and storage “can help the north-east move away from its reliance on oil and gas”.
Mr Matheson said: “The Scottish Government is firmly supportive of the Scottish Cluster’s bid in the current carbon capture and utilisation storage cluster sequencing process.
“The Scottish Cluster has vast potential to support decarbonisation in Scotland, the UK and the wider world and also present a huge opportunity to harness the skills and expertise of our current workforces to create any good, green jobs in the coming years.
“We therefore believe it is critical that the UK Government selects the Scottish Cluster to be among the first CCU clusters to be awarded funding through its current cluster sequencing process.”
£1 billion investment
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “We have launched a fair, transparent and competitive process to determine which UK industrial regions will have the first opportunity to negotiate for over £1 billion of investment to establish carbon capture at scale.
“We are committed to supporting the decarbonisation of the energy industry in every corner of the UK, including north east Scotland, and driving forward the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan commitments in relation to carbon capture.”