Scottish Cluster is key to decarbonisation efforts

When 196 countries adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement we committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. In Scotland, a nation rich in renewable energy resources and natural carbon sinks, this commitment is even more urgent, with climate targets to be met by 2030 and 2045.

St Fergus Gas Terminal is at the centre of the Acorn carbon capture and storage project. (Photo: Shell)

The pace of change is accelerating and it is clear that no single solution such as planting trees, switching to renewable energy, or banning gas boilers can be enough. Alongside behaviour change and nature-based solutions, large scale technical solutions such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be critical in meeting this challenge.

Between the UK and Norway we have ready access to about 90% of North West Europe’s geologically appropriate storage resource – almost entirely in the North Sea. It makes sense to capitalise on this, and attract finance, to drive our economies forward in the same way we did with North Sea oil and gas back in the mid-seventies.

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The Acorn CCS and Hydrogen project in St Fergus, Scotland, is one of the potential solutions for decarbonisation in Europe. Acorn is strategically located in Aberdeenshire, to make best use of legacy oil and gas infrastructure, and Scotland's excellent offshore geology for carbon dioxide storage. Thirty per cent of the UK’s known CO2 storage resource (23.8Gt) lies within 50km of the offshore pipeline corridors at St Fergus. This resource could store the equivalent of 65 years of the UK’s 2018 emissions to enable the UK’s transition into a net zero future.

The proximity to the deep-water port of Peterhead enables the Acorn Project to support international decarbonisation with imported CO2 being shipped into a dedicated terminal before onward transfer to Acorn. The import opportunity could make the UK a leader in CO2 storage and the potential revenues from imports could subsidise the cost of decarbonising British industry, helping to keep it competitive.

Acorn can scale as the demand to store CO2 grows from emitters across the UK and Europe, helping to cost effectively transform our carbon intensive industries and build a fairer, more resilient economy while sustaining and creating jobs across the whole of the UK.

Today, approximately just 40 million tonnes of CO2 a year is stored globally. The UK alone currently emits approximately 360 million tonnes a year of CO2, so current storage levels are just a fraction of what's required. Some forecasters say we’ll need five gigatonnes (that’s a billion tonnes) of CO2 storage globally by 2050 – that means the world needs around 2,000 CCS projects by the middle of this century all operating efficiently and at scale. Set to be one of the first operational CCS project in the UK, with a target of capturing, transporting and storing CO2 by the mid-2020s, Acorn will be just the first of many CCS projects.

The UK Government has made a financial commitment. A billion pounds pledged to support the development of four CO2 capture and storage clusters across the UK by the end of the decade. Aberdeenshire could be the heart of the growing green agenda, attracting finance and offsetting carbon from the UK and Europe. Acorn’s CCS and Hydrogen systems will provide the critical backbone infrastructure of the Scottish Cluster and this is key to supporting the decarbonisation of a host of industries and communities across the UK and Europe, helping to build a fairer, more resilient economy.

Nick Cooper, CEO of Storegga, the business behind the Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage project, writing in support of the Back the Scottish Cluster campaign, pressing the case for the Scottish Cluster in the BEIS cluster sequencing process.

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