Having one of the longest deep-water quays in Scotland has proven beneficial for Port of Cromarty Firth, with a number of lucrative offshore windfarm construction projects in the pipeline and optimism surrounding its bid to become a Green Freeport

 

THE ScotWind leasing round, announced on 17 January this year, opened the floodgates to a massive expansion of the Scottish offshore wind sector.

Port of Cromarty Firth’s chief executive, Bob Buskie, said: “As the first round of offshore wind leasing in a decade, the highly anticipated Scotwind announcement is hugely significant for the Cromarty Firth as well as for the Highlands and Scotland.”

Buskie congratulated the successful consortium bidders and added: “The Port of Cromarty Firth has been identified as a key strategic asset for Scotland, particularly in the manufacturing and assembly of new floating wind technology. We are primed and ready to take advantage of the opportunity, along with the winning developers and our partners in Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF). 

HeraldScotland:

CEO of Port of Cromarty Firth, Bob Buskie  

 

“We are collaborating to provide a Port cluster and a sustainable economic impact in the Highlands for years to come. This is a real game-changing opportunity for the Highlands and Scotland.”

Joanne Allday, Strategic Business Development Manager at the Port, notes that prior to the auction, the Scottish Crown Estate office had estimated that the Scottish supply chain sector would see around £1 billion of investment for every gigawatt of offshore and floating wind generation coming from the auction.

“The Scottish Government was expecting to award 8 to 10 Gigawatts of installed offshore capacity from the January Scotwind round. In fact, Crown Estate Scotland awarded 25 Gigawatts of capacity. That could generate a massive £25 billion windfall for the Scottish and UK supply chain, with a number of ports, including ours, being well-positioned to benefit from this,” she comments.  

A number of the offshore sites granted in the Scotwind round are ideally located for the firth to play a key role in both the construction and operational phases of these offshore sites. “We anticipate the region securing a long term pipeline of projects, which will be tremendous for the Port and for the firth as a whole,” Allday says. 
In a report by the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council (SOWEC) last year, the Firth was identified as Scotland’s leading location for the formation of a strategic national offshore wind port cluster, capable of delivering a huge economic boost to the nation.

Allday points out that the Port’s £30 million 372 metre-long Quay West development is now complete, along with a 90,000 square metre laydown area, making it one of the longest deep-water quays in Scotland. This together with the 10 hectares of laydown area and 12-metre water depth, alongside the experience and the Port and the regional supply chain, puts the Port of Cromarty Firth in an ideal position to attract a large share of offshore windfarm construction work.

“The market response to the completion of Quay West has been fantastic. This is now one of the best facilities in Scotland, if not in the whole of the UK. The Westminster Government’s recently announced UK Energy Security Strategy calls for an acceleration in the buildout of offshore wind, and we at PoCF are ready to go right now,” she says. 

The Port is also increasingly involved in the green hydrogen ‘revolution’. “We had significant interest in green hydrogen production and distribution due to our existing infrastructure and access to green power, prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
This war has focused minds across Europe on the critical importance of energy security. Green hydrogen, with wind generation powering the electrolysis of seawater, is seeing a real surge in demand and the European Union recently quadrupled its hydrogen targets, with the majority being imported” Allday says.

“With Scotland having 26 percent of Europe’s wind resource and a constrained electricity grid, many of the consortia that were successful in the Scotwind round are interested in developing green hydrogen as a way of getting the energy they will be producing, to market,” she says.

Allday points out that the Scottish government have a target of generating some 5GW by 2030 of clean hydrogen. “There is a clear intention to develop Scotland as a leading exporter of green hydrogen to Europe,” she comments.

The Firth has a key role to play in this. A study in July last year examined the feasibility of siting a large hydrogen electrolyser plant in the Firth. Called the North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme ‘Distilleries Project’ the study found that there were a number of sites around the Firth able to host the proposed 35MW electrolyser facility. 

Allday says that the project is being backed by a number of partners, including Scottish Power and Storegga, plus drinks giants, Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo. The electrolyser is expected to be up and running by 2024, producing up to 14 tonnes of green hydrogen per day.

The study has now passed the initial feasibility phase and the concept is being refined. There is every expectation now that the 2024 date for the electrolyser to be running will work.

The distilleries need heat as a key part of their production process, and supplying this heat from green hydrogen will play its part in helping Scotland to achieve its net-zero targets. The Port is also in the final stages of preparing its bid for Green Freeport status, which will be decided by the UK and Scottish Governments. “Bids from interested ports have to be in by 20th June. A decision is expected in August and we believe two Green Freeports will be announced.”

“We think we have a great chance, particularly if the bids are judged on their ability to create jobs, fair work and play their part in the decarbonisation agenda,” Allday says.