SCOTLAND’S biggest polluting companies have been accused of “greenwashing” after campaigners criticised plans to keep burning fossil fuels and mitigate the impacts by carbon capture and storage.

Ineos and Petroineos have joined the Acorn project by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for their operations at Grangemouth – leading the way for one million tonnes of CO2 to be captured and stored from the industrial hub a year by 2027.

An even greater volume of carbon could be captured in future years.

Carbon capture and storage has received criticism over it being unproven at preventing 100% of carbon from escaping into the atmosphere – while environmental campaigners have labelled it a licence to continue extracting fossil fuels.

READ MORE: Warning over reliance on carbon capture and storage for climate targets

But the Scottish Government has placed carbon capture as a central part of plans to become net zero by 2045.

A report by the Tyndall Centre warned that “significant deployment” of the technology for power, heat and transport systems is “now not expected until 2030” - despite MSPs pledging to cut 75% of 1990 levels of carbon emissions by 2030.

The climate experts have also pointed to a “lack of incentives, policies and regulation for CCS implementation compared to what is expected to be delivered by CCS infrastructure”.

Carbon capture and storage involves separating and capturing carbon dioxide from other gases before it enters the atmosphere – converting CO2 into liquid to be transported.

The CO2 is pumped or injected deep underground for permanent storage.

Jess Cowell, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "The carbon capture industry has a long history of over-promising and under-delivering and now the fossil fuel industry wants us to trust them with a technology that has shown repeatedly it cannot be relied upon.

READ MORE: Ineos boss snubs MSPs investigating Scotland's zero carbon future

"What we are seeing at Grangemouth is the latest industry greenwashing tactic from Ineos that ultimately risks prolonging the life of the oil and gas industry when we should be rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels. “Relying on CCS to do the heavy lifting of emissions reductions isn’t remotely credible when there isn’t a single working CCS plant anywhere in the UK. Carbon capture and storage is a dangerous distraction from the necessary action to cut climate emissions from our energy sector in this crucial decade.

"Investing in a range of renewables and energy efficiency measures would deliver more jobs, faster emissions cuts and bigger boosts to wellbeing than handing more money to fossil fuel companies for illusory carbon capture projects.”

Earlier this year, insiders told the Herald that discussions had been held between Grangemouth operations and Acorn project officials in north east Scotland about potentially linking up to carbon capture infrastructure.

Scottish Greens environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said: “Cutting Grangemouth’s carbon footprint as quickly as possible while ensuring the community have alternative jobs is the biggest priority, and we need to recognise that carbon capture and storage may not be ready in time.

"Ineos is a company that pollutes central Scotland, wanted to frack under our communities and refused to give evidence in parliament, and this latest venture is its attempt to keep extracting and importing fossil fuels at a time when we need to be investing in the alternatives.”

The Acorn project is currently in the front end engineering and design phase of development and is planned to be operational by the mid 2020s, with the potential of achieving more than half of the 10Mt per year of CO2 storage targeted by the UK Government’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution by 2030.

READ MORE: The challenge of cleaning up Grangemouth without causing economic ruin

Andrew Gardner, chairman of Ineos Grangemouth, said: “Ineos and Petroineos at Grangemouth recognise the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our industrial processes.

“As a one of Scotland’s largest manufacturers and employers, we acknowledge that we are operating a CO2 intensive industry and we have a significant role to play in helping Scotland reach its net carbon zero target by 2045.

“We have already made significant reductions since taking ownership of the site and we are delighted to be taking this further by supporting the Acorn CCS Scottish cluster bid.

“Once operational, the carbon capture and storage system will provide an essential route to permanently and safely capture and store CO2 emissions for large industrial emitters throughout Scotland with significant positive impact for climate change and the country.”

Nick Cooper, CEO of Storegga, the lead developer of the Acorn project, added: “The Acorn project partnersStoregga, Shell and Harbour Energy are delighted that Ineos and Petroineos have entered into an MOU with Acorn, which is a really significant step in managing Scotland’s industrial emissions.

“The Acorn CCS and hydrogen project is advanced, highly scalable and has clear visibility of a large CO2 customer base. Acorn provides critical carbon reduction infrastructure to the growing Scottish cluster of emitters and to the wider UK.”