UK Government is being urged to give urgent clarity about future support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.
It follows the publication of a study by Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) that identified the north-east as a potential epicentre for the technology.
Despite the upbeat predictions, the report caveated that opportunities arising from the £100 billion industry could be lost, unless government picks up the pace.
To try to ensure that doesn’t happen, Stephen Flynn, SNP MP for Aberdeen South, has written to the business secretary to demand movement on CCS as soon as possible.
In his correspondence with Kwasi Kwarteng, Mr Flynn lamented the “incomprehensible” delay in announcing a timeline for ‘Track 2’ of the government’s cluster sequencing process.
It is widely assumed that the Scottish Cluster – which was picked as the reserve scheme in the ‘Track 1’ round – will be given the nod by ministers next time.
Once a timeline for Track 2 is issued, it will give a clearer picture of when the Acorn CCS project, based at the St Fergus gas plant, could be up and running.
Currently under development, the project is expected to create and support thousands of jobs, offering alternative employment to oil and gas workers as the North Sea winds down.
Mr Flynn said: “The OEUK report was explicit that urgent action is required from UK Government to progress carbon capture and it reiterated the economic and environmental case for carbon capture in the north-east of Scotland – something that was clear when the UK Government snubbed the Acorn site for Track-1 status.
“Despite the need for urgent action, the UK Government is yet announce the timetable for the track-2 process leaving industry in the lurch and our net zero targets in jeopardy.
A CCS ‘betrayal’
“Reserve status for the Acorn site is utterly meaningless if there is no process laid out for progression and certainty that the UK Government will take the Scottish cluster forward.
“Warm words will not suffice because the lessons of the UK Government’s track record on north-east carbon capture tell us that such words ultimately end in betrayal.”
To date, the story of CCS in the north-east has been one of false dawns.
Several projects aimed at establishing the technology, which involved trapping and storing emissions in old oil and gas reservoirs, have got going but have failed to make it over the line.
Most recently in 2015, Westminster opted to pull the plug on a £1bn funding competition in which a project at the Peterhead Power Station was a frontrunner.
Now, with the imperative to decarbonise the energy system ever growing and government cash back on the table, there is a sense that CCS will finally materialise in the north-east.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are determined to make the UK a world leader in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and are accelerating development of this vital technology, with UK government funding of £1 billion via our Carbon Capture Infrastructure Fund.
“We have committed to establishing two CCUS industrial clusters by the mid-2020s and a further two clusters by 2030. The strong potential of the Aberdeenshire Acorn project has been confirmed by the cluster sequencing process – which is just the start and good news for the future competitiveness of Scotland’s industry.”