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We also know from the OBR and the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement that over next five years an equivalent of £16,000 from every man, woman and child in Scotland will flow to His Majesty’s Treasury and not a single energy penny will be returned to Scotland or its people.
The 2014 Labour/Tory Better Together coalition told us Scotland’s oil was running out, yet, 10 years on, it’s our oil and gas that’s keeping the rUK afloat.
Last week’s GERS figures prove beyond any doubt that our North Sea Oil and Gas industry can still be the economic engine room for the early years of an independent Scotland.
Meanwhile, the strategic deployment of carbon capture technology as a condition of all further North Sea licences would render such development entirely compatible with a sustainable future for the planet.
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Scotland’s offshore carbon storage capacity is vast and we have the potential to be a world-leading industrial pioneer but that ambition is stymied by the dead hand of Westminster control.
It’s now three weeks since Rishi Sunak jetted in and out of Scotland as the latest in a long line of prime ministers with an empty promise of funding for Scotland’s carbon capture industry.
Where is the cash, what is the strategy, and where are the jobs?
While Scotland is forced to wait for Westminster to get its act together, we’re falling further behind the international industrial curve when we could have already established ourselves as a global leader with game-changing carbon capture technologies.
Industry that could and should be delivering a bright future for the North Sea oil and gas sector while simultaneously playing a global role in reducing carbon emissions.
Even with most nations diversifying their energy mix, fossil fuels will continue to meet a majority of the world’s energy demand for several decades. Accelerating deployment of carbon capture technologies is essential for slashing emissions across the globe from industrial usage to home energy needs.
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The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (CCES) works to secure a safe and stable climate by accelerating the global transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and a thriving, just, and resilient energy economy. Its experts believe that emerging technologies can capture more than 90% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities.
Captured CO2 can be put to productive use in enhanced oil recovery and the manufacture of fuels, building materials, or be stored in underground geologic formations. And it’s the latter that Scotland’s North Sea provides on an enormous scale.
The CCES also reports that carbon capture can achieve 14% of global greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 and this is considered the only practical way to achieve deep decarbonisation for the industrial sector. That’s a huge prize for the planet and one that Scotland should already be contributing towards – not just for the UK but for all of Europe and beyond.
Mossmorran’s natural gas liquid (NGL) and ethylene plants in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency are strategically well placed for developing and deploying such technologies.
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With its direct pipeline connection to the St Fergus terminal in the north-east there is ample opportunity for bi-directional flow of gas into the terminal and captured carbon back up-line for off-shore storage.
Yet neither the UK nor Scottish governments seem willing to explore this potential and the Greens are determined to see the plant’s closure against this logic.
But as we sit and wait on the UK Government to show us the colour of their (our) money, 26 commercial-scale carbon capture projects are operating around the world with a further 21 in early development and 13 more approaching front end engineering design (FEED).
Were Scotland already independent, we could have established ourselves as a global leader, consolidating the north-east’s position as a global energy capital and an exemplar of how the world can both utilise the natural resources we have, and transition to a greener future.
In 2020, Shell’s Quest project in Alberta, Canada, which captures CO2 from a hydrogen production unit at the Scotford refinery, surpassed five million tonnes of CO2 stored.
In 2017, the ADM Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage Project in Illinois in the US began capturing CO2 from an ethanol production facility, sequestering it in a nearby deep saline formation. The project can capture up to 1.1 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
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And in the same year the NRG Petra Nova project in Texas completed a project to capture 90% of the CO2 from a 240 MW slipstream of flue gas at its existing WA Parish plant (or roughly
1.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year) which is transported to an oil field nearby. Across the world, other nations’ domestic industries are developing both the technology and expertise apace. Contrast these success stories with Scotland’s vast unrealised potential.
The UK Government’s own estimates suggest there may be enough space beneath our waters – including our old oil and gas fields – to store up to 78bn tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent to the weight of around 15bn elephants.
The North Sea Transitionary Authority already has a target in place to capture and store 20-30m tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030 and more than 50m tonnes/yr by 2035.
Instead of the “presumption against” oil and gas the Scottish Greens still demand, the Scottish Government should adopt a presumption in favour of incentivising critical mass in the skills and supply chain that is vital for accelerating towards net zero, delivering the energy needs of an independent Scotland, protecting highly skilled jobs and ensuring economic security for Scotland well into the future.
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Instead of sabotaging the future of Scotland’s oil and gas expertise, the Scottish Government should be demanding that the UK Government hands back a substantial share of oil and gas revenues for transition investment and secure the power to ensure any new oil and gas extraction licences are conditional on a wellhead tariff to support the development of the world’s first net-zero fields.
If we do this then we can unleash the financial bounty that lies deep in the fields of Cambo and Rosebank. The independence movement can’t afford to disregard such an economic and political foundation for the campaign ahead.
And, of course, it’s not just this revenue and economic value an independent Scotland can look forward to. Wind energy is already our biggest and cheapest way of generating electricity and, from offshore wind alone, Scotland could soon be producing more than five times our own electricity requirements.
As an independent country we could use the value of this vast surplus to eradicate fuel poverty entirely.
This second energy opportunity for Scotland is one we can’t afford to miss. The Better Together claim of pooling and sharing was a lie then and remains so to this day.
For as long as every energy penny ends up in London’s pocket and our people go cold and hungry it is a fig leaf used to hide the robbery of our resources.
Enough I say. It has to be independence all the way.