Oil region fuels 20-year green transport plan
Britain’s bus and lorry fleets, as well as thousands of homes, could be running on low carbon hydrogen within two decades thanks to green technologies being pioneered in Scotland’s oil and gas region.
Acorn, an ambitious climate mitigation programme based in Aberdeenshire, is among the first successes of the North Sea Transition Deal, an agreement between the UK Government and its offshore energies industries that was signed a year ago.
It is one of three UK projects that are spearheading technologies for the mass production of clean-burning hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture and storage – alongside HyNet, which reaches across North West England and North Wales, and Zero Carbon Humber, on the North East coast of England.
The Transition Deal opened the way for Acorn, which is backed by Shell, Harbour Energy and Storegga, to engage the UK and Scottish governments in its plans to build systems for these green technologies. The project is awaiting final approval for government funding and expected to create 20,600 jobs by 2030, a significant boost to the local economy.
Acorn will act as a catalyst for clean growth by generating hydrogen power. The St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire is the first landing point for around a third of the total natural gas used in the UK.
The project seeks to capitalise on this by taking the North Sea natural gas and reforming it into clean burning hydrogen, while capturing and safely storing the waste CO2.
Under this scheme, legacy oil and gas pipelines in Aberdeenshire will be given a new lease of life as infrastructure to transport waste CO2 to a permanent storage site, bypassing the high capital costs involved in building the network of pipes from scratch.
The project would see about 300,000 tonnes per year of existing CO2 emissions from the St Fergus gas terminal captured and safely stored.
The Transition Deal also sets targets to dramatically cut production emissions for the North Sea oil and gas the UK will continue to need by 50% by 2030, 90% by 2040 and 100% by 2050.
This week Deirdre Michie, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), one of the architects of the Deal, said the trade body’s one-year assessment suggested that it would generate up to £16 billion in private sector investments, reduce CO2 emissions by 60 million tonnes and generate 40,000 jobs.
The regions that are currently developing the first technology clusters, like North East Scotland, will be among the biggest beneficiaries.
Ms Michie said: “The dreadful war and tragic events in Ukraine also underlines the fact that the UK must minimise its reliance on imported energy. The climate crisis means we must also continue cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
“These three regions are pioneering technologies that achieve both aims. If we can clean up our own natural gas by turning it into hydrogen, and permanently storing the waste CO2, then the North Sea can become a secure source of low-carbon energy from gas. That’s in addition to the huge success of offshore wind which is set to quadruple by 2030 and which is proving a huge national success.”