Scottish Cluster: letter to UK government from Michael Matheson MSP

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport to the Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth.

Rt Hon Greg Hands MP

House of Commons



15 October 2021

Dear Minister Hands,

In the UK Government’s 2020 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, Ministers outlined a commitment to support two carbon capture clusters in the UK by the mid 2020’s and a further two clusters by 2030. The programme to sequence these clusters is now underway and the Scottish Cluster, led by the Acorn Project, considered the most advanced and well planned carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in the UK, is bidding into this process. I trust that the UK Government fully comprehends that this is an essential CCS cluster for development and highly deliverable in the mid-2020s.

It is clear that CCUS will play an important role in helping us to reach net-zero emissions, indeed, advice from the Committee on Climate Change describes CCUS as a “necessity, not an option” to achieve the Scottish Government’s statutory emissions targets to 2045, and the UKG Government’s targets by 2050. All credible evidence, advice and analysis undertaken by, and made available to, the Scottish Government has demonstrated that CCUS is critical for meeting not only Scotland’s legally binding emissions reduction targets, but those set across the UK. We called for early deployment of CCS business models and are pleased to see these finally emerging, for most capture and storage applications.

We support the current action of the UK Government to support CCUS technologies. After the previous false dawns and cancelled UK Government competitions, we are seeing confidence return in those organisations who will need to utilise CCUS to enact decarbonisation plans. 

The Scottish Government is already providing funding and policy support to the development of CCUS in Scotland. We are firm supporters of the Scottish Cluster’s bid into the sequencing process, and have noted huge engagement across the emitter community in engaging with decarbonisation planning. The importance of this cluster sequencing process can not be underestimated for Scotland’s largest concentration of industrial emitters in and around the Grangemouth region. These businesses, who are global by nature, carbon-intensive and significant employers are showing their commitment to decarbonisation and view this bid as fundamental to their future in the UK.

It is hugely encouraging to see this commitment to a sustainable future in Scotland. We have seen a recent £1bn industry commitment by INEOS regarding the decarbonisation of Grangemouth, SSE and Equinor working together to deliver a CCS power station at Peterhead, and the very recent information that ExxonMobil and the Acorn project will work together to understand the opportunity for CCS to decarbonise the Fife Ethylene Plant, all of which demonstrates the range of substantial decarbonisation projects developing in Scotland.

The Scottish Cluster bid is not only a key component of Scottish industrial decarbonisation, but also of UK-wide decarbonisation. The Cluster bid includes UK industrial emitters who will ship CO2 to Scotland, making it unique as a project bidding into the cluster sequencing process, and as a UK-wide proposition.

The development of CCUS is a whole-UK endeavour in which Scotland has a significant role to play; our unrivalled access to vast CO2 storage potential and our opportunities to repurpose existing oil and gas infrastructure Scotland remains the best placed nation in Europe to deploy CCS. Indeed, the Acorn project alone could provide over 60% of the UK Government’s target of 10mt of CO2 stored by 2030.

Given this UK-wide interest, we wish to continue to engage with the UK Government in delivering these CCS projects across the UK, and promoting a cooperative industry that shares knowledge and learning.

It is clear that the Acorn CCS project is uniquely placed to be the least-cost and most deliverable opportunity to deploy a full chain CCS project in the UK. Therefore, it is clearly critical and highly logical that the UK Government would ensure that the Scottish Cluster is recognised as deployable in line with the UK Government’s mid-2020s deployment timeline. 

This is a national endeavour of great importance for both of the Scottish and UK Government. The Scottish Government is aware of the critical nature of these projects to decarbonisation of industry and energy systems, and stands ready to support the Scottish Cluster projects to help bring them to fruition. We trust that the UK Government will not slow the momentum and engagement on decarbonisation we have seen across industry by awarding the Scottish Cluster anything less than Track-1 status, and furthermore would reiterate that support should be given to any CCS cluster capable of delivering emissions reductions in the mid-2020s. 

Michael Matheson MSP


T: 0300 244 4000


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