UK ministers underline commitment to Scottish carbon capture project
The UK Government has underscored its support for an Aberdeenshire carbon capture project, noting that it plans to be in a position to fund the Acorn facility by 2023.
Based at the St Fergus gas terminal, the Acorn project was among a number of bidders seeking government backing for the development of carbon capture and storage capabilities earlier this year. The aim of such facilities is to take carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, something that is seen as key to helping both the UK and Scottish governments achieve their net-zero targets.
In October the UK Government announced that it was awarding its first round of funding to projects in Humberside and Merseyside rather than Acorn, but both Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart and Scottish secretary Alister Jack today said the intention is to ensure Acorn is supported in the next round.
Speaking during a Westminster session of Scottish questions that took place ahead of PMQs, Stewart said it was “wrong” to say the UK Government is not backing Acorn, noting that it “continues to work with them to ensure it has a fighting chance” when the next tranche of funding is awarded.
Jack said the decision had been taken to support the English projects over Acorn because they “have a huge hinterland of industrial carbon” to work with. Acorn, meanwhile, was seen as more problematic as it aims to use existing oil and gas pipelines to transport greenhouse gases to its facility from around the UK and Europe.
He added that the government is working with the project to ensure it “is more viable for 2023”.
Jack has already lobbied cabinet colleagues to bring forward the next carbon capture funding round from 2030 to 2023. He told parliament that if that acceleration can happen Acorn will be able to improve its bid. “That’s very much the focus,” he said.
Stewart and Jack also used the session to make the case for continuing to support the UK oil and gas industry – which is based largely in the North East of Scotland - during the transition to net zero and beyond.
The UK Government is at odds with the Scottish Government over support for development of the controversial Cambo oil field, with the former saying the fossil fuels it will produce are required while the latter says that position should be reassessed.
Jack called the Scottish Government’s comments on the issue “disgraceful and depressing” while both ministers said that fossil fuels will continue to be needed even after net-zero targets have been met.
“We need to transition to renewables, but we need to be aware of the fact that we need oil and gas during that period,” Stewart said, noting that fossil fuels are also used in the production of medicines.
Jack said that “even when we get to 2050” oil will account for 50 per cent of the UK’s power needs while gas will account for 20 per cent, adding that petrochemicals are used “to make instruments for the NHS”.
“It’s ridiculous to think you can turn off the taps,” he added.