Exclusive: Shell, Chrysaor get behind Acorn carbon capture project

Energy giant Shell is getting “actively” involved in a north-east carbon capture project again – less than five years after its plans for a similar scheme were derailed.

Shell is working on technical studies for Acorn, a carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) project at St Fergus gas plant near Peterhead.

Exploration and production firm Chrysaor, which bought a portfolio of North Sea assets from Shell in 2017, has also become a partner in Acorn.

Steve Phimister, vice president for Shell’s upstream business in the UK, said it was “very early days”, but hoped infrastructure which served the company’s Goldeneye field would be reused.

The Anglo-Dutch firm previously intended to use Goldeneye, 80 miles north-east of Aberdeen, for a carbon capture project at Peterhead Power Station. Shell and then-partner SSE were competing with a scheme in North Yorkshire for a £1 billion UK Government grant. But their plans were wrecked in 2015 when the competition was cancelled.

The UK Government has decided to throw its weight behind carbon capture again. In June, ministers pledged to spread £26 million across nine UK projects to “accelerate the rollout” of the technology as the country strives for net zero emissions by 2050.

Acorn, which is led by Aberdeenshire firm Pale Blue Dot, was awarded £4.8m.

At the time, Steve Murphy, Pale Blue Dot’s finance director, said the funds would help pay for detailed design work on Acorn.

That stage should last about 18 months and provide all the information required to make a final decision on the scheme, which could be up and running by 2023-24.

Acorn would use existing oil and gas infrastructure to store carbon dioxide underground in depleted North Sea fields, reducing pollution and helping tackle climate change.

On Shell’s involvement, Mr Phimister said: “We very recently joined with Pale Blue Dot for Acorn around St Fergus.

“We are now actively part of Acorn and are looking at CCUS, potentially hydrogen and options to decarbonise the St Fergus industrial area. It’s early days. We’re doing some technical studies around what needs to happen to get the building blocks together and figure it out.

“But it will include, I hope, the reuse of hydrocarbon equipment, including our Goldeneye asset. We have pipelines available and have preserved them for future reuse for carbon dioxide sequestration in depleted hydrocarbon fields.

“The Goldeneye field is a very good field for that. It was, of course, part of the previous Peterhead proposal. We’re keen to invest and ensure the reuse of oil and gas facilities for that purpose so you’ll see us doing more in that space.”

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