Several players team up to usher in new era of low carbon workforce in Scotland

In a move designed to support and build Scotland’s low carbon workforce, the global safety and skills body for the energy industry, OPITO, has joined forces with the Acorn Project and Scottish Cluster to create a plan for industrial skilling and reskilling training to advance the UK’s net-zero ambitions and push industry decarbonisation forward.

OPITO - Low carbon workforce
Illustration; Source: OPITO

In March this year, the UK government pledged that high-skilled oil and gas workers and the supply chain would not be left behind in the transition to a low carbon future as the landmark North Sea Transition Deal was agreed with the industry.

This deal enables the oil and gas sector – largely based in Scotland and the North East – the government and trade unions to work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation, and new infrastructure required to decarbonise the industry.

Projects like AcornHynetNet-Zero Teeside, Zero Carbon Humber and the Global Underwater Hub are supported, as they are expected to contribute significantly to the transition to a green economy. Several oil and gas companies have recognised this and joined in the development of these projects.

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To meet the net-zero targets, the industry, businesses and supply chains need to work together to bring decarbonisation efforts to the forefront. However, the transition from hydrocarbons to renewables also encompasses a need to prepare the workforce for the change in jobs, skills and expertise.

OPITO confirmed on Wednesday that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with the Acorn Project and Scottish Cluster. This agreement’s main aim is to develop a blueprint of industrial skilling and reskilling training for the low carbon economy. 

The Acorn Project is one of the most mature carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen projects in the UK. It is currently in the detailed engineering and design phase of development and can be operational by the mid-2020s. Designed to service multiple emitters around Scotland, the UK and Europe, it can rapidly scale up to meet expected demand, with the ability to remove at least 20mtpa of CO₂ emissions within the first decade of operations.

Developed by Storegga in partnership with Shell and Harbour Energy, the Acorn Project provides the backbone infrastructure for the Scottish Cluster. It can unlock access to one of the UK’s CO2 storage resources of over 600Mt through a transport and storage network comprised of multiple pipelines and stores. It is also expected to create low-carbon jobs while sustaining vital industries where it is hard to reduce emissions.

Nick Cooper, CEO of Storegga, commented on behalf of the Scottish Cluster: “Our conservative estimate is that over 20,000 skilled jobs will be created through the peak of the Scottish Cluster development. We are determined that training and reskilling opportunities are in place to prepare our workforce to meet the infrastructure and innovation needs of the Scottish Cluster projects.”

Acorn’s programme includes Acorn CCS and Acorn Hydrogen. Using existing offshore gas pipelines which land at the St Fergus gas terminal to quickly and cost-effectively provide access to CO2 stores located in rock formations deep under the North Sea, it will establish a CO2 transport and storage hub to support the key emitter projects within the Scottish Cluster.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently announced the outcome of its CCUS Cluster Sequencing Process to decide which of the UK’s industrial CCS clusters would be on the earliest track for project delivery in the UK.

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The Scottish Cluster was awarded reserve cluster status and continues to work with the government towards the delivery of the project.

Andy Williamson, Head of Energy Transition at OPITO, said: “Despite the UK Government’s decision to name the Scottish Cluster as a reserve, we share the Acorn partner’s view that the Project remains crucial to the development of CCS to support decarbonisation of UK industry.

A unique combination of existing infrastructure, offshore geology, and a skilled and competent workforce who are ready to transfer their skills means the Acorn Project will play a key role in meeting Scotland, and the UK’s journey to net-zero.”

OPITO will provide standards and skills competency training support to the Scottish Cluster in advance of work getting underway hopefully by 2023. These workforce skills training and development plans implemented on the Scottish Cluster will be applicable across other UK-based CCS clusters.

“Our workforce in Scotland will be equipped with the skills to deliver projects for our net-zero future in Scotland, the UK, and then export this knowledge internationally in the same way that the North Sea did in previous decades,” added Copper.