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Dismay as Scottish carbon capture project loses out


Grangemouth formed part of the Scottish cluster (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotland’s hopes of developing a carbon capture and storage project have taken a knock after its bid was reduced to being a “back up” option in case either of two preferred proposals failed to deliver.

UK Energy Minister Greg Hands announced that the Hynet cluster in the north west of England, and another comprising Zerocarbon Humber and Net Zero Teesside, have been selected. The Scottish cluster Acorn will be a reserve project.

After announcing the winning bids, Mr Hands said: “We will continue to engage with the Scottish Cluster throughout Phase-2 of the sequencing process, to ensure it can continue its development and planning.

“This means that if government chooses to discontinue engagement with a cluster in Track-1, we can engage with this reserve cluster instead.”

The Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan established a commitment to CCUS in a minimum of two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s, and four by 2030 at the latest, suggesting the Acorn project may be given the nod at a later date.

However, the industry and opposition politicians were united in expressing dismay at the decision and called for more clusters to be taken forward.

The Scottish cluster planned to capture emissions from Grangemouth and St Fergus, and build a new power station at Peterhead.

Earlier this month a group of Scottish business leaders, including Sir Ian Wood and Martin Gilbert, wrote to the Prime Minister arguing that Scotland is the most cost-effective place to begin CCS in the UK given the capacity for CO2 storage in the North Sea and the existing oil and gas infrastructure available to repurpose for CO2 transport and storage.

Sir Ian Wood on Question Time

Sir Ian Wood: letter to PM argued that Scotland was the most cost-effective location

Today, speaking as chairman of the Energy Transition Group (ETZ), Sir Ian said:  “We are hugely disappointed at the decision of the UK Government not to approve the Scottish Cluster as part of the CCS track 1 programme. This makes little economic or environmental sense and is a real blow to Scotland.

“The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has stated that “CCS is a necessity not an option” to achieve net zero targets and if we are serious about decarbonisation then we must move much more quickly and comprehensively than we have done to date. 

“At the very least I urge the UK Government to reconsider their decision and add a third cluster to the track 1 programme which should undoubtedly be the excellent Scottish bid.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said:  “The strong potential of the Acorn project has been confirmed by the bidding process.

“That’s good news for the future and, while I know the bid team will be disappointed not to have made the first cut, it’s encouraging that the Scottish Cluster is a reserve and I’m confident it will continue to develop and compete for the next round of funding.

“To date, the UK Government has allocated £31million supporting the development of the scheme and it remains a key player in meeting ambitious carbon capture goals that would see 20-30 megatonnes of carbon dioxide stripped out by 2030. Scotland has a world-leading energy sector and the UK Government will continue to invest in its future.”

Scotland’s Net Zero and Energy Secretary Michael Matheson described the decision as “illogical”. He said: “The decision today shows a clear lack of ambition and leadership on climate change by the UK Government.

“It is clear that the Acorn project is the most cost-effective and deliverable opportunity to deploy a full chain CCS project in the UK.

“It is therefore completely illogical that the UK Government has taken the decision not to award the Scottish Cluster clear and definitive Track-1 status. It is a decision which significantly compromises our ability to take crucial near-term action to reduce emissions – not just in Scotland, but across the UK.”


Oil and gas industry body OGUK responded to today’s decision by saying the UK will need all of the proposed cluster projects – and more – if it is to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Other bids included the Delphynus cluster in South Humber, as well as one in the Southampton area.

“In total, they could help the UK capture up to 100 million tonnes of carbon per year to decarbonise sectors, including heavy freight and marine transport, as well as steel, chemical and cement manufacturing” said OGUK.

“The Climate Change Committee, has said technologies such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen are critical in helping the UK get to net zero.”

On Thursday OGUK will release its Energy Transition Outlook report that will outline the UK’s full potential for carbon capture and other crucial greener technologies like hydrogen, as well as progress in reducing its own emissions in the production of cleaner oil and gas the UK will still need as it transitions to a low carbon energy mix.

OGUK sustainability director Mike Tholen said: “This is a landmark moment for the UK in showing the world how they can achieve net zero emissions and the selection of Hynet and the East Coast Cluster is positive progress.

“However, we are going to need all of these carbon capture and hydrogen projects and more if the country is to become carbon neutral by 2050.

“Of all the carbon capture clusters in development, every single one of them involves an oil and gas company.

“With 50 years of expertise producing energy, the UK’s changing oil and gas industry is using its skills to help the country hit net zero.

“We look forward to seeing both Track 1 and Track 2 clusters make progress urgently, turbo charging progress towards our climate goals while providing jobs and opportunities to energy communities across the UK.”

See also:

Oil and gas industry cuts emissions

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