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Scotland says it can help the UK get a three for two deal from CCS funding

By Dale Lunan

The Scottish government on January 14 said it would provide £80mn (US$109.5mn) to the Scottish Cluster, the centrepiece of which is the Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.

The investment would come from Scotland’s Emerging Energy Technologies Fund, and is designed to convince the UK government – which spurned Acorn in its Track-1 funding award in October 2021 – that it can develop “three CCS cluster for the price of two” by adding the Scottish Cluster to its Track-1 plans.

“The UK government’s decision not to award the Scottish Cluster clear and definitive Track-1 status is a serious mistake which shows a clear lack of ambition and leadership on climate change,” Scottish energy secretary Michael Matheson said. “Delaying or halting the deployment of the Scottish Cluster has serious consequences, including jeopardising the industrial decarbonisation of Scotland and our just transition to net zero, creating an un-level playing field across the UK, and endangering Scottish and UK-wide net zero targets.”

Matheson made the offer of funding in a virtual meeting January 13 with UK energy minister Greg Hands, hoping it would give certainty to the development of the Scottish Cluster along with the UK East Coast Cluster and HyNet North West, which were promised £1bn in state funding under Track-1 sequencing plans.

“We stand ready with up to £80mn of funding to help the Scottish Cluster continue and accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technology,” he said.

The Scottish government has neither the legislative or regulatory levers needed to support the Scottish Cluster, Matheson added, and can’t simply “go it alone” with funding to make sure the project, which could capture and store up to 6.5mn mt/year of CO2, moves forward.

“Our offer of support is…made on the basis that the Scottish Cluster is given certainty of its due status within the UK sequencing process, and I once again urge the UK government to provide this certainty for the benefit of our energy sector and for our ability to deliver a just transition to net zero.”

OGUK, which represents the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry, said Scotland’s offer to support Acorn CCS and the Scottish Cluster underscores how important CCS and hydrogen developments are as the UK seeks to drive down its emissions, while at the same time providing the power needed for homes and workplaces.

The two Track-1 projects, plus the Scottish Cluster, which the UK said is being held as a “reserve” project in Track-1, and Track-2 projects which will be put forward for state funding later this year, could help the UK capture as much as 100mn mt/year of CO2 from a variety of hard-to-abate sectors, including heavy freight, marine transport and steel, chemical and cement manufacturing.

“In accelerating these carbon capture projects, the UK is laying a key part of the infrastructure for its net zero future,” OGUK sustainability director Mike Tholen said. “It is a crucial first step but scale is essential if the UK is to make itself carbon neutral by 2050.”