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UK ‘will fail’ to reach net zero targets without carbon capture funding, say MPs



MPs have urged the government to include funding for the Scottish Acorn carbon capture and storage programme in the coming Budget.

The House of Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee has warned that the UK might fail to meet its net zero targets without the widespread implementation of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects. 

The committee chair, Pete Wishart, insisted it was “deeply disappointing” that the Acorn CCUS project in  St Fergus, Aberdeenshire, had been “put on the back burner”.

Wishart highlighted that much of the necessary infrastructure for the project – which missed out on funding in the first phase of the UK Government’s CCUS cluster sequencing process – was already in place. 

“Net zero is little more than a pipe dream without carbon capture,” Wishart said, as he demanded that  “clarity must be given at next week’s Budget”.

Wishart’s comments were made as the committee published a report highlighting Scotland’s potential to become a hub for carbon capture and for hydrogen projects, due to the existing infrastructure in St Fergus and existing skills from the energy sector. 

The nation also has access to secure geological storage of carbon due to North Sea oil and gas fields.

Acorn carbon capture project /Acorn

Image credit: Acorn

Currently, there are 180GW of recoverable installed wind capacity in Scottish waters, which vastly exceeds Scotland’s and much of the UK’s needs.

Despite this, and ambitious targets being set by both the UK and Scottish governments, the committee stressed the lack of “policy progress” and “sense of urgency” needed to help the nation transition to renewable energy sources. 

“Scotland and the rest of the UK will not be able to deliver on their net-zero commitments without carbon capture and storage,” MPs said. 

Acorn, based at the existing gas terminal at St Fergus in Aberdeenshire, was described as “ideally placed” to take natural gas and reform it into clean-burning hydrogen with the CO2 emissions captured, removed and stored.

The hydrogen produced on the site can then be used as a clean-burning fuel to replace fuel oil at industrial complexes such as Grangemouth. 

“As part of Scottish Cluster, Acorn is critical to meeting the decarbonisation objectives of not just Scotland but the UK as a whole,” the committee said. 

In addition to funding for the Acorn project, the committee called for key decisions on hydrogen production, planning decisions, storage and transportation, and timelines to be put in place.

Wishart claimed there were “gaping policy holes” in the government’s approach.

He added: “If the policy gaps are addressed, and the UK government jumps on the opportunities in Scotland, we could be a major exporter of clean energy with thriving clusters and local economies.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are making the UK a world leader in carbon capture, utilisation and storage and are accelerating development of this vital technology as part of our greater efforts to increase energy security and independence.

“The UK Government is putting £1 billion into CCUS through the CCS Infrastructure Fund and we recognise the strong role that Scotland can play in developing and expanding the use of CCUS – and the UK Government has provided Aberdeen £40 million development funding, and we remain committed to ensuring this continues in Scotland and across the UK.”

In the UK alone, the carbon capture and storage (CCS) sector could be worth £100bn to the economy by 2050, according to an Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) report. The UK government’s official Net Zero Strategy estimates that around 50 million tonnes a year will need to be captured by 2035.

Last June, the country opened its first licensing round of large-scale carbon capture projects in 13 areas within the North Sea, specifically in locations off the coasts of Aberdeen, Teesside, Liverpool and Lincolnshire.

In January, a team of scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNLL) announced it had developed what is claimed to be the “least costly carbon capture system to date”.

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