Acorn Project gains momentum with new customers and Shell partnership

Our member the Acorn CCS Project has moved decisively forward, signing up several prospective customers, and agreeing financial and operational agreements with Shell, a global pioneer of CCS. Its efforts mean a Scottish CCS Cluster, bringing together a wide range is stakeholders, is gaining considerable traction.

Since June, Acorn has made agreements with: Petroineos and INEOS, the operators of Scotland’s important Grangemouth site; the owners of two of St Fergus’s gas terminals; and the planned new low-carbon power plant at Peterhead.

Shell, meanwhile, has become a financial partner in the project and has also been appointed as Acorn’s CCS Technical Developer. The oil giant is now an equal partner in Acorn alongside Harbour Energy and Storegga, which, through its wholly owned subsidiary Pale Blue Dot Energy, is the project’s lead developer. The partners will develop Acorn – which involves both CCS and hydrogen projects - through to final investment decision, construction, operation and beyond.

Based in north-east Scotland, the Acorn CCS project is currently in the detailed engineering and design phase of development and hopes to be operational by the mid-2020s. As one of the UK’s most mature CCS projects, it has the potential to achieve more than half of the 10Mt/yr of CO2 storage by 2030 targeted in the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan.

Grangemouth, St Fergus and Peterhead agreements

With INEOS/Petroineos, the Acorn partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a CCS system linking the Grangemouth refining and petrochemicals complex, one of Scotland’s biggest industrial facilities, to Acorn’s CO2 transport and storage hub. The initiative will cover the entire Grangemouth site and will enable the capture and storage of approximately one million tonnes a year of CO2 by 2027, with the scope to capture more in future. 

Acorn also signed an MoU with SEGAL (Shell and ExxonMobil), and with FUKA (North Sea Midstream Partners), which own two of St Fergus’s three gas terminals, on plans to capture existing CO2 emissions from their operations. Together, the three terminals process 35% of the natural gas that feeds into the UK’s National Grid. Emissions can be liquefied and transported via ship to the deep-water port at nearby Peterhead before being piped offshore for permanent storage using existing oil and gas infrastructure.

Nick Cooper, CEO Storegga, described agreeing the MoU with the terminals as “momentous”.

“Signing the MoU to begin this important work on the St Fergus CO2 emissions represents a key milestone for the Acorn Project and its ability to deliver progress towards the UK’s net zero goals,” he said. “These emissions should be the first of many as we plan to scale the project to store more than 20 million tonnes a year of CO2 emissions from Scotland, the UK and potentially Europe by the mid-2030s.”

Finally, Acorn formed an alliance with the new low-carbon power plant being planned by SSE Thermal and Equinor in Peterhead, on the coast a few miles south of St Fergus. The alliance will see the 900MW gas-fired power station’s captured emissions piped into Acorn’s CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, making the project another key early Acorn customer.

Back the Scottish Cluster

With momentum for Acorn and for CCS in Scotland building, the Acorn partnership is a key driver in the Back the Scottish Cluster campaign, launched in May to raise awareness of, and build support for, CCS/CCUS in Scotland and beyond. It is hoped that by 2030, the Scottish Cluster will include nine different UK CO2 sources. This will include the Acorn initiatives described above as well as hydrogen generation and the deployment of Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology. Storegga has begun work on the latter: in June, it announced plans for the first large-scale DAC facility of its kind, also based in north-east Scotland.

“DAC technology is critical to remove large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. The development of a DAC facility in the UK will put our country on the map as being at the forefront of net negative technologies,” said Nick Cooper, Storegga CEO.

Map: Courtesy of Acorn Project