Acorn is an ambitious programme designed to tackle climate change by dealing with industrial CO2 emissions and other ‘hard to decarbonise’ sectors. By making use of oil and gas pipelines that are already in place, offshore geology that is ideal for permanently storing carbon dioxide (CO2), and a region that is embracing hydrogen as a fuel of the future, this project is a really important catalyst for the next phase of the UK’s journey to Net Zero.
There are two key elements to the Acorn project:
Acorn CCS Project
A CCS project based in the North East of Scotland.
Reforming natural gas into clean burning hydrogen.
What is Acorn CCS?
Acorn CCS is a carbon capture and storage project specifically designed to overcome one of the acknowledged blockers to CCS deployment in the UK – the high capital costs involved in getting started.
Based at the St Fergus gas terminal in North East Scotland, Acorn CCS can repurpose existing gas pipelines to take CO2 directly to the Acorn CO2 Storage Site. With this important pipeline infrastructure already in place, Acorn CCS can get started using existing CO2 emissions– captured directly from the gas processing units at the St Fergus gas terminal.
This first phase of Acorn CCS offers a low capital cost start, that can be delivered by the mid 2020s – establishing the critical CO2 transport and storage infrastructure required for the wider Acorn build-out including Acorn Hydrogen and the import of CO2 to St Fergus from ships at Peterhead Port and from Scotland’s industrial Central Belt.
Designated a European Project of Common Interest (PCI) Acorn is an important catalyst for clean growth opportunities in Scotland and in regions where CO2 transport and storage is limited, Acorn can help transform our carbon intensive industries into low carbon industries and sustain jobs.
The project is led by Pale Blue Dot Energy, with funding and support from industry partners (Harbour Energy and Shell) the UK and Scottish Governments, and the European Union.
What is CCS?
CCS is a collection of technologies used to prevent carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from entering the atmosphere.
CO2 capture technology can be used on any large source of CO2, but is most often associated with capturing CO2 from industrial processes (which can include hydrogen production from natural gas) and power generation.
CO2 is captured at its source and transported (normally by pipe or ship), to be permanently stored in rock formations at least a kilometre under the ground.
In their recommendations to Governments on how the UK and Scotland can reach their Net Zero greenhouse gas emission targets, the UK Committee on Climate Change have stated that developing carbon capture and storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen are a necessity not an option.
Phase One: establishing a CCS infrastructure
at St Fergus gas terminal
through Goldeneye pipline
in the Acorn CO2 Storage Site
Acorn CCS Phase One would see around 300,000 t/yr of existing CO2 emissions from the St Fergus gas terminal captured, dried, compressed and sent through the Goldeneye pipeline to be injected into the Acorn CO2 Storage Site – a very large volume of sandstone rock, found over 2.5km under the seabed, approximately 100km offshore from St Fergus.
This first phase of Acorn CCS unlocks a very large CO2 transportation and storage solution of millions of tonnes of CO2 per year, with plenty of options for further growth.
Phase Two: a catalyst for clean growth
Designated a European Project of Common Interest (PCI), Acorn is an important catalyst for clean growth in the north east of the UK and beyond:
- A major carbon capture and storage hub with hydrogen production at the St Fergus gas terminal.
- An economic opportunity for the deep-water port at Peterhead for potential CO2 imports.
- A repurposed onshore pipeline to address Scotland’s Central Belt emissions.
- An international CO2 storage hub in the Central North Sea that unlocks CO2 transportation and storage solutions for other carbon capture and storage (CCUS) clusters across the UK and Europe.
What is a PCI?
Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) are key cross border infrastructure projects that link the energy systems of EU countries.
They are intended to help the EU achieve its energy policy and climate objectives: affordable, secure and sustainable energy for all citizens, and the long-term decarbonisation of the economy in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
What is Acorn Hydrogen?
Hydrogen offers an exciting way to deliver low carbon energy because when it is burned it doesn’t produce CO2, just water and heat.
Low-carbon heating is recognised by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change as one of the toughest challenges for UK climate policy. Around 85% of UK households currently use fossil-fuel based natural gas for heat.
The St Fergus gas terminal in North East Scotland, where the Acorn CCS infrastructure is being built, is the first landing point for around a third of all the natural gas used across the UK.
Acorn Hydrogen can take North Sea natural gas and reform it into clean burning hydrogen with the CO2 emissions created from generating the hydrogen, safely removed and stored using the Acorn CCS infrastructure.
The first Acorn Hydrogen plant can be online in 2025. Initially, Acorn Hydrogen will focus on blending hydrogen with the natural gas that is piped through the National Transmission System to transport the fuel into homes, offices and factories across the UK.
Using this ‘blending at source’ method means that by replacing just 2% of natural gas with hydrogen we can easily cut around 400,000 tonnes a year of carbon emissions with no impact at all on the way gas is used.
of all natural gas used in the UK comes onshore at St Fergus.
An ideal site for a major hydrogen production hub. Hydrogen can be fed directly into the gas grid as an enabler to decarbonising gas.
What is Hydrogen?
Hydrogen is the lightest element in the periodic table and the most abundant chemical substance in the Universe. A colourless, odourless, flammable gas, hydrogen can be a really useful form of low carbon energy because when it burns it makes heat and water not carbon dioxide (CO2).
Clean hydrogen can be made from different energy sources. From renewable energy like wind and from hydrocarbons like natural gas with carbon capture and storage.
Acorn Hydrogen will make hydrogen from natural gas at the St Fergus gas terminal, removing the CO2 that this creates using the Acorn CCS infrastructure.
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