Scotland will miss out on funding for a new carbon capture facility, despite meeting eligibility criteria, the UK’s energy minister has said.
The new facility, due to be in St Fergus in Aberdeenshire, is now likely to come in the second phase of the UK’s carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) cluster sequencing process after the first facility is set to be built on the Humber and around Liverpool.
Emissions would be drawn from the North Sea and the refinery in Grangemouth via pipelines and stored in the north east facility.
The Scottish cluster will now be considered as a “reserve” with the energy minister, Greg Hands, saying that if “the Government chooses to discontinue engagement with a cluster in Track-1, we can engage with this reserve cluster instead”.
In a statement, Hands said: “We are also announcing the Scottish Cluster as a reserve cluster if a back-up is needed.
“A reserve cluster is one which met the eligibility criteria and performed to a good standard against the evaluation criteria.
“As such, we will continue to engage with the Scottish Cluster throughout Phase-2 of the sequencing process, to ensure it can continue its development and planning.”
But the move was described as a “betrayal of the north east” by the SNP, with energy spokesman, Stephen Flynn, saying: “This day will live long in the memories of people right across Scotland.
“This inexplicable decision shows the Tories are guilty of empty words and broken promises on ensuring a just transition for Scotland’s communities.
“The Tories pulled the plug on £1bn of carbon capture investment for Peterhead in 2015 and now they’ve repeated the trick again.
“It beggars belief that at the very moment Tory ministers are being challenged to match the Scottish Government’s £500m investment in a just transition – they are instead sticking two fingers up to Scotland and withdrawing investment.
“The north east of Scotland is the home of the offshore industry and the obvious location for a carbon capture project.
“How can we have a just transition if the Tories aren’t willing to put the north east of Scotland first?
“It’s clear the Tories have put holding seats in the red wall of northern England ahead of saving jobs in Aberdeen and the north east.”
Scottish Tory net-zero spokesman, Liam Kerr, described the move as “disappointing”, but added: “Support to develop CCUS technology is vital for the future of the North Sea energy industry.
“The Scottish Conservatives have been pushing hard for the north east to be at the forefront of CCUS.
“That will not change and it still will be a UK and world leader.
“Looking to track two within this decade, we will redouble our efforts with the UK Government, which has been the only one to acknowledge the strengths of Scottish CCUS, especially since the Greens and SNP formed their coalition of chaos.”
The Scottish Government’s net zero secretary, Michael Matheson, said the move showed “a clear lack of ambition” from the UK Government.
He added: “The Scottish Government supports the development of CCUS in Scotland, and has been a firm supporter of the Scottish Cluster’s bid into the sequencing process. It is clear that the Acorn project is the most cost-effective and deliverable opportunity to deploy a full-chain CCS project in the UK.
“It is therefore completely illogical that the UK Government has taken the decision not to award the Scottish Cluster clear and definitive track-1 status. It is a decision which significantly compromises our ability to take crucial near-term action to reduce emissions – not just in Scotland, but across the UK.”
The Scotland Office minister, Malcolm Offord, said: “The strong potential of the Acorn project has been confirmed by the bidding process.
“That’s good news for the future and, while I know the bid team will be disappointed not to have made the first cut, it’s encouraging that the Scottish cluster is a reserve and I’m confident it will continue to develop and compete for the next round of funding.
“To date, the UK Government has allocated £31m supporting the development of the scheme and it remains a key player in meeting ambitious carbon capture goals that would see 20-30 megatonnes of carbon dioxide stripped out by 2030.
“Scotland has a world-leading energy sector and the UK Government will continue to invest in its future.”