Sunak unveils carbon capture jobs for Scotland
Rishi Sunak is pressing ahead with more oil and gas licences in the North Sea and a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in a bold move that will widen divisions over energy policy.
The Prime Minister is in Aberdeenshire where his commitment to the Acorn CCS scheme promises more than 21,000 jobs.
It will be backed by millions of pounds of investment and aims to capture carbon dioxide emissions from across the country for offshore storage in the North Sea.
He is committed to announcing about 100 exploration and production licences that are due to be confirmed in September.
There was widespread criticism of the Conservative government when it put the project on a reserve list and favoured two other schemes in England.
In view of the broadly accepted view that Aberdeen must transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources it had been thought it would have secured a CCS project in the first round.
Instead, two projects around the Humber and the Mersey were given preference in what some say was a political decision to prop up Tory support in the north of England.
Enrique Cornejo, head of policy at Offshore Energies UK, the trade body for the energy industry, has urged ministers to speed up funding for the Scottish cluster and warned that “resources for the project are starting to shift overseas, particularly to the US”.
The Acorn project, based around the St Fergus gas terminal, will use existing pipelines to transfer greenhouse gases from sources such as the Ineos oil refinery at Grangemouth.
It involves capturing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then diverting it to other purposes or injecting it back into the ground, such as into empty North Sea oil and gas fields.
Mr Sunak is now promising thousands of jobs in what will be seen as a move to re-establish his party’s net zero ambitions and lay the ground for a key electoral battle.
CCS is seen as a potential factor in winning Scottish seats in next year’s general election, with energy regarded as a major concern among voters.
Labour and the SNP support CCS but Labour has wavered over its commitment to North Sea licences and the nationalists are heavily influenced by their Green party partners in government who have cast doubt on the environmental benefits of the technology.
In a statement, the Scottish Greens’ climate spokesperson, Mark Ruskell said: “There may well be a role for carbon capture and storage in the future, particularly when it comes to decarbonising industrial sites such as Grangemouth and Mossmorran which will be challenging.
“However, it is no substitute for investing in renewable jobs and industries and energy efficiency. It must not be used as a justification for more north sea drilling, which will have a devastating impact on our environment and take us even closer to climate breakdown.
“We cannot wholly rely on a delayed and still largely unproven technology to meet climate targets. So far CCS has overpromised and underperformed.”
A Labour spokesman said: “The Conservatives plan to persist with their failed approach with a policy that will not take a penny off bills, do nothing for our energy security and drive a coach and horses through our climate commitments — while continuing to leave us at the mercy of fossil fuel dictators like Putin.”