North-east MSP demands assurances on plans for CCS

A north-east MSP has called for assurances that UK carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects won’t hit the buffers following the Cabinet reshuffle.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, claimed CCS was vital in “the context of a climate emergency”.

But he cast doubt on the new secretary of state for energy’s commitment to CCS.

He said Andrea Leadsom previously opposed an amendment to the 2017 Energy Bill seeking the creation of a national strategy for CCS.

David Duguid, Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, described the SNP’s questioning of Ms Leadsom’s commitment to the technology as “desperate”.

And he added that Ms Leadsom had labelled the proposed Labour/SNP amendment “unnecessary” and stressed Ms Leadsom fully backed CCS in her previous roles as an energy minister and junior environment minister.

However, the UK Government has something of chequered past when it comes to supporting CCS projects.

Between 2007 and 2015, it ran two competitions for support to develop CCS projects in the power sector, but both were controversially cancelled before funding was awarded.

A project involving Shell and SSE at Peterhead Power Station had been competing with a scheme in North Yorkshire in the second contest, only for the £1 billion grant to be withdrawn.

The UK Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, published in October 2017, set out a new approach to CCS in the UK.

It envisaged the UK becoming a global leader in the technology, which would be deployed at scale in the 2030s, as long as costs dropped sufficiently.

Last month, the UK Government announced it would spread £26m across nine UK projects to “accelerate the rollout” of carbon capture technology as the country strives for net zero emissions by 2050.

It provided a £4.8m shot in the arm for the Acorn CCS scheme at St Fergus gas plant near Peterhead.

Bosses at Aberdeenshire firm Pale Blue Dot, which runs Acorn, said the award showed Westminster was serious about meeting its low carbon objectives.

They added the cash injection would be used to 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.

However, Mr Stevenson accused the UK Government of “dithering” before putting CCS back on the table.

He said: “Actually getting on with the job has been one sorry saga for the UK Government from start to finish.

“Now it’s all change once again round the Cabinet table, with Boris Johnson at the helm and Andrea Leadsom calling the shots on tackling climate change.

“We need assurances that CCS will proceed without delay.”

Mr Duguid has been a supporter of the Acorn project and the development of a Scottish CCUS cluster, which would use infrastructure at St Fergus and Grangemouth.

He said Ms Leadsom’s appointment would “guarantee a science-led, evidence-based approach” to CCS.

A spokeswoman for the UK’s energy department said Pale Blue Dot was “under contract” to receive the funds pledged last month.

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