A report commissioned by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggests Shetland and the areas around Aberdeen and Inverness are in prime position to reap rewards from the emerging carbon capture and storage (CCS) sector due to their wealth of expertise in engineering and other offshore skills and technology.
The study, from trade association Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), formerly known as Oil and Gas UK, found regions involved with oil and gas extraction are ideally placed to become future hubs for CCS and exploit an associated jobs boom.
Analysts predict the sector could be worth up to £100 billion a year by 2050.
However, it warns UK businesses could lose out to foreign competitors if support is not rapidly stepped up.
Katy Heidenreich, supply chain and operations director for OEUK, said: “Carbon capture and storage is going to be a key tool in our fight against climate change.
“It offers a huge opportunity for the UK supply chain to help energy-intensive industries cut emissions.
“If we get this right, it could unlock £100bn-worth of work for UK manufacturing employers by 2050.
“This will support UK jobs, cut emissions, boost the economy and develop skills which can be exported globally.
“North-east Scotland and Shetland are among the best-placed regions to take advantage of and benefit from these exciting new technologies.
“Lots of progress has been made, but without urgent action the UK will miss out on the opportunity to secure a leadership position in this exciting new sector.
“Our report sets out how we will continue to work with government to seize a first-mover advantage, benefiting the economy, jobs and local communities while achieving our net-zero goals.”
It is generally accepted that current methods of reducing emissions will not alone be sufficient to prevent the planet warming above the internationally agreed 1.5C danger level, so CCS is seen as a crucial method for removing climate pollution from operations which rely on burning fossil fuels.
The technique involves trapping carbon dioxide and other gases produced by power generation and manufacturing, transferring them by ship or pipeline and locking them up in rock formations deep underground – such as depleted oil and gas wells.
The UK has an estimated total storage capacity of 78 gigatons, the amount the UK would produce over 200 years at current levels, meaning there is potential to become a disposal centre for carbon dioxide imported from other countries.
However, CCS is largely untested. Concerns have been raised that deployment could encourage an increase in fossil fuel use and hamper climate action.
Developing such technologies was a key element in the 2021 North Sea Transition Deal, under which the offshore energy industry committed to work with the UK Government to achieve net zero by 2050.
Two industrial clusters in England and Wales – places where energy-intensive industries are located close to each other – were selected for the UK’s first CCS deployments.
A similar scheme, the Acorn Project, is planned for Scotland – based at St Fergus gas terminal near Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire.