AFTER Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government dropped a possible way of tackling climate change, the EU has stepped in to give funds to Project Acorn, the Scottish development that hopes to make carbon capture and storage a reality.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a way of “decarbonising” fossil fuel used in power generation. It involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from high-producing sources, transporting it and storing it in secure geological formations deep underground.

Peterhead power station was set to become the centre for Britain’s bid to install CCS on a gas-powered station – it would have been a world first – but the UK Government cancelled the £1 billion project after spending £100 million on a preparatory competition.

Now Project Acorn is hoping to go where the Tory Government will not go – all mention of CCS has been deleted from the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The project’s directors have announced that they have gained support from the EU funding round Advancing CCS Technologies (ACT), a part of the ERA-NET programme. Project Acorn is being developed by CO2DeepStore and has been approved for funding under the EU programme to progress feasibility studies in 2017 and 2018.

Pale Blue Dot Energy is leading the ACT study consortium which also includes Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage, Bellona (Norway), Liverpool University and Radboud University (The Netherlands).

According to a project statement: “Acorn provides a low-cost entry point for CCS in the UK, by enabling a small-scale project, from which an extensive CCS network could be developed.”

The project will capture industrial CO2 emissions from the St Fergus gas processing plant and transport it for permanent storage deep beneath the North Sea, using existing redundant oil and gas infrastructure which is currently under threat of decommissioning.

St Fergus will be a future hub for CCS, its multiple pipelines taking CO2 by pipeline from Central Scotland and CO2 shipping import via Peterhead Harbour to North Sea storage sites.

Project Acorn say that the high cost of earlier large-scale proposed projects has so far prevented the UK from initiating CCS.

Alan James, managing director of Pale Blue Dot Energy, said “This is a significant endorsement for this innovative project, the benefits of which have been seen by the nine EU member states involved in the evaluation. We look forward to progressing the feasibility phase and working with stakeholders to move the project towards development.”

Professor Stuart Haszeldine, director of Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, added: “Funding for the Acorn CCS project is an important first step towards decarbonising industry in Scotland as part of the UK’s overall efforts.

“Several years of work, by SCCS, Pale Blue Dot Energy and others, have confirmed the benefits of re-using legacy engineering equipment, pipelines and well-understood geological storage.

“This has already been evaluated with £100 million of public funding. In all of Europe, north-east Scotland is the location where CCS can be built most rapidly, with low-cost CO2 transport and very secure storage sites. Acorn also lights a path to sustainable offshore engineering and employment.”