Acorn, a ground-breaking carbon capture and storage project, is moving forwards after several funding announcements this year. In May, Acorn was awarded funding from the EU funding round ‘Accelerating CCS Technologies’ (ACT), part of ERA-NET programme. This feasibility study work is now underway. On top of this, Scottish Government has announced their support of Acorn and the provision of £100,000 to underpin the feasibility study and progress CCS in Scotland Following several false starts in recent years, Acorn is an exciting step forwards for CCS in the UK.
Acorn is a small scale full chain project in North East Scotland. CO2 is captured from existing emissions at the St Fergus gas terminal, which would otherwise enter the atmosphere. CO2 is then transported offshore and injected deep underground for permanent sequestration in a saline formation. The Acorn CCS project will re-use existing oil and gas infrastructure which is now redundant, prior to it being decommissioned. Re-using existing infrastructure, reduces project costs and makes best use of old facilities. On its current timetable the project could be operational before 2022. The project is planning to capture about 200,000T/y of CO2.
The project would demonstrate the commercial and regulatory aspects of CCS project development in the UK. This would include the commercial aspects of transferring oil and gas infrastructure for use in CCS, the implementation of CO2 storage permits and development of funding and risk allocation aspects of CCS projects.
Acorn also acts as a seed from which CCS in the UK can grow. Additional CO2 sources can be added, including Peterhead Power station, ship import via Peterhead Harbour and transport via existing pipeline from industrial and power sources in Central Scotland. Additional transport and storage infrastructure can easily be developed, re-using additional oil and gas pipelines and developing storage sites in the Central North Sea, where data exists from our oil and gas heritage and there are many large-scale storage reservoirs.
Despite considerable effort, the UK has struggled to get Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) started. The UK government has run two competitions to select a project but none have made it to construction. The scale of the proposed projects, with capital costs over £1bn, in a new market have prevented public and private sector agreement being reached.
CCS remains vital for the UK, and many other countries, to meet climate change obligations. By capturing CO2 from industrial sources and existing thermal power stations we can significantly and quickly reduce our emissions. In addition, CCS enables the generation of Hydrogen in bulk, which can also be used for low carbon heating and transport.
CCS also has significant potential to generate economic value and create jobs through the delivery of future projects in the UK internationally. The UK is well placed with CCS supply chain skills to address this emerging market.
The time has come for the UK to deliver its first CCS project. A project on a small scale, re-using existing oil and gas infrastructure and ideally placed for subsequent CCS growth. A project like Acorn.