ExxonMobil is increasing its participation in the proposed Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Scotland.

The company revealed on Wednesday that it had signed an expression of interest to study storing emissions from its Fife Ethylene Plant at the project.

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“The Acorn project has the potential to capture and store CO2 emissions from Scotland’s largest industrial centre, which is an economic engine for the country,” said Martin Burrell, manager of the Fife plant.

“This agreement allows us to explore the potential for significant emissions reduction through CCS and ensure Scotland continues to benefit from vital manufacturing facilities such as Fife.”

The expression of interest follows a memorandum of understanding (MoU) ExxonMobil signed earlier this year to capture and store at least 5 million tonnes per annum of emissions by 2030 from gas terminals at the St Fergus complex at Peterhead, Scotland, which includes ExxonMobil’s joint venture gas terminal.

Acorn lead developer Storegga also signed an MoU this year with Ineos to capture and store 1 million tpa of carbon dioxide from the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland by 2027, with the deal carrying scope for “further significant volumes” to be captured beyond that date.

Emissions captured by Acorn will be piped about 100 kilometres offshore to be stored in rock formations deep below the North Sea.

The project will also capitalise on existing oil and gas infrastructure, with about 420 kilometres of offshore pipelines from the St Fergus hub having been identified as suitable to reuse for CO2 transport.

Meeting the UK's CCS targets

The Acorn project could deliver more than half of the UK’s targeted goal of capturing and storing 10 million tpa of CO2 by 2030.

ExxonMobil noted that it could be expanded, with the potential to store more than 20 million tpa by the mid-2030s.

Plans: the potential Acorn carbon capture and storage project Photo: PALE BLUE DOT

Acorn is one of five proposed CCS projects that have already met an initial government eligibility test. The UK aims to have at least two CCS schemes up and running by the middle of this decade, with a further two targeted to be in operation by 2030, in order to hit its 10 million tpa target.

The other developments that have met the government’s eligibility criteria are Neptune Energy’s DelpHYnus project, Eni’s Hynet project, Harbour Energy’s V Net Zero and the East Coast Cluster — which brings together the BP-led Net Zero Teesside and Equinor-led Zero Carbon Humber schemes and the Northern Endurance Partnership involving Eni, National Grid, Shell and TotalEnergies.

The government is now looking to identify at least two clusters that are suited for deployment in the mid-2020s, with these “Track-1” clusters expected to be named this month.

Projects that are selected for Track-1 will be given the opportunity to be considered for government support, including potential funding from the £1 billion ($1.36 billion) CCS Infrastructure Fund.

CCS is seen as an important technology for the UK to meet its ambitious target of cutting its emissions 78% by 2035, compared with 1990 levels, ahead of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

ExxonMobil builds CCS portfolio

Project Acorn is one of several CCS developments ExxonMobil is evaluating globally. It is also looking at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Normandy in France and LaBarge in Wyoming.

Chief executive Darren Woods said earlier this year that ExxonMobil was on track to make a final investment decision at its LaBarge facility in 2022, as well as on a new carbon capture technology pilot associated with the Porthos project in Rotterdam.

However, the potential crown jewel in its CCS plans is the “world-scale” hub concept it is evaluating in Houston, Texas, which could potentially capture 50 million tpa of CO2 by 2030 and 100 million tpa by 2040.

It was reported last month that several companies had expressed interest in working with ExxonMobil on the flagship development, including fellow US supermajor Chevron.

In announcing ExxonMobil’s increased participation at the Acorn project, president of low carbon solutions Joe Blommaert said: “With the right government policies in place and industry collaboration, the CCS opportunities we are evaluating, such as in Scotland, have the potential to move forward with current technologies for large-scale, game-changing emissions reductions.”

ExxonMobil claims to have an equity share in one-fifth of global CO2 capture capacity and to have captured about 40% of all the captured anthropogenic CO2 in the world.