THE climate crisis requires new methods of creating and delivering energy which is reliable, low carbon, low cost, and local.

This involves a global effort in innovation and development. Winners will be the new environmental engineering companies to emerge by 2050.

One of those methods is carbon capture and storage (CCS) – a suite of technologies where a conversion of fossil carbon to energy can be achieved whilst trapping the greenhouse gas emissions.

The CO2 previously emitted to cause climate change is liquified and disposed into the rock pores of deeply buried aquifer sandstones filled with salty water – effectively back from where the carbon originated.

The Scottish Acorn project is still awaiting any news from Westminster about the next round of support funds. But with such an excellent project, why not go it alone?

Indeed this is a very attractive option, because whilst the UK has been running hard on the spot with competitions, the Norwegians have been methodically making a business from CCS. The Northern Lights project now offers CO2 storage as a takeaway service, to any CO2 owner around the North Sea or Baltic.

Scottish SME Pale Blue Dot could move into the same position, as Acorn project developer. But that’s short of two things.

First the money to build the pipeline and boreholes; second the financial underwriting to insure CO2 against leakage into the far future.

Does Acorn CCS matter for the Scottish low carbon ambition? There are multiple answers to that.

First, in a simplest sense, this is delaying the development and delivery of a Scottish based SME at a crucial time when markets are being made. It also prevents it from bringing new business into Scotland – where it can provide a CO2 permanent storage service to fill the gaping void identified by Norway. Shipping import of CO2 for that business, is an explicit offer in Acorn. If this is the start of a €5 billion (£4.15bn) per year industry for Scotland, then that is slipping through our fingers.

Second, in a middle timescale sense this could be just a delay until the next round of competition opportunity from Westminster. But if the rules remain similar and the “biggest bid” counts most – then it’s still very possible for Acorn to be sidelined in favour of a Humberside south Phillips 66 refinery, or a Southampton Fawley Exxon oil refinery complex.

Third, in a longer timescale strategic Scottish sense this makes the achievement of net zero 2045 in Scotland extremely difficult to deliver due to reasons of industry, net zero balance and hydrogen.

Carbon-emitting industry in Scotland from diverse small firms to global companies are all currently blocked from low cost and timely takeaway of CO2. They may find other routes to CO2 disposal, or may de-prioritise their Scottish sites which would make them more vulnerable to closure.

Reaching net zero requires not just improved efficiency, decreased fossil fuel use and capture of emissions across all activities – but also needs to use captured CO2 from air to balance remaining dispersed emissions.

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Although some of those dispersed emissions can be captured with peat lands, and some with short duration capture but not storage in forests, and a small part with rewilding – there is still a need for tens of millions of tonnes a year of CO2 to be recovered and to be stored for thousands of years timespan.

Hydrogen is problematic, in that Scotland is creating a sizeable ambition to use low-carbon hydrogen on a massive scale. That will add to energy independence and should provide decoupling from global price controls.

For speed of delivery during the 2020s, and for least cost at large scale, then splitting of methane to hydrogen and carbon dioxide is favoured – exactly as in CCS projects being funded in England.

Although I argue that blue hydrogen has to be a short bridge transition to get away from global price and security problems.

Hydrogen is planned for use in heating homes and businesses, for transport, feedstock to make local fuel cell electricity, and especially for very large energy storage from summer to winter and for when variable wind power does not produce sufficient electricity.

If Scotland does not go for blue hydrogen, then green hydrogen from electrolysis is needed – soon, at low cost, and at vast scale.

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That has to be preceded by consenting of immense low carbon electricity capacity – under way with ScotWind and DeepWind and followed through with wires connecting to the insufficient mainland grid.

The alternative is with hydrogen electrolysis offshore, pipelined or tankered to geological storage in the depleted gas fields around Shetland, in the Cromarty Firth, or to Peterhead deepwater port, where it can be fed into the UK gas pipeline grid at St Fergus.

If no local and domestic CCS route is available in Scotland, then of course CO2 could be captured, and trucked or trained to a pipeline gathering point, and eventually find its way to storage offshore.

But that requires punitive extra handling costs for most of those smaller industries.

That creates no jobs in Scotland. That creates no low carbon inward investment zone in Scotland. That also places existing Scottish industries into a high carbon backwater, to be on the pathway to closure compared to decarbonised centres further south and in Europe. Scotland should be leading from the inside, not catching up from the outside.

CCS in Scotland has a very wide spread of application – from power plant to industry, heating, transport, balancing Net zero, creating a major new national industry, and transitioning from oil and gas extraction.

Either as a vital region of the UK, or as an independent jurisdiction – creating CCS is a rational and guilt-free industrial investment.

Stuart Haszeldine is the SCCS Director and Professor of Carbon Capture & Storage, University of Edinburgh