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North East freeport could boost economy and power cleaner air travel – bidders

Steve Murphy, of Storegga, and Jon Matthews, of AGS, are backing the green port bid (PA)
Steve Murphy, of Storegga, and Jon Matthews, of AGS, are backing the green port bid (PA)

A Green Freeport in North East Scotland could lead the way in powering cleaner air travel, the group behind the bid said, with the production of sustainable aviation fuel set to be based at the site if it gets the go-ahead.

The creation of the fuel facility at St Fergus is a key part of the North East Scotland Green Freeport bid, and the group said it could create up to 920 jobs and provide a £133 million boost to the economy if given the go-ahead.

In a joint project between the Scottish and UK Governments, regions designated as green freeports will be able to offer special tax incentives and lower tariffs in a bid to boost trade.

Four other areas in Scotland have applied for the status: Clyde Green Freeport, Opportunity Inverness and Cromarty Firth, Firth of Forth Green Freeport and Orkney Green Freeport.

Aeroplane in the sky with trees to the left
Sustainable aviation fuel could create deliver £2.9 billion annually to the UK economy (Tim Goode/PA)

If given the go ahead, the St Fergus site will be home to a facility which will create fuel from things like household and post-recycling municipal waste, agricultural and forestry residues, and gives carbon savings of upwards of 70% compared to fossil jet fuel.

Jon Matthews, group head of capital and planning at Aberdeen International Airport, said: “Securing green freeport status would not only unlock the potential of this sustainable aviation fuel plant, it would help retain and create jobs at St Fergus which is actively seeking a just transition of workers to clean growth jobs.”

Industry body Sustainable Aviation said the industry could generate £2.9 billion annually for the UK economy, creating more than 20,000 jobs across the country in production and export services.

And, the body said, it would save 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year by 2038.

Steve Murphy, chief commercial officer at Storegga, the lead developer for the Acorn carbon capture and storage and hydrogen infrastructure projects proposed for St Fergus, said: “Becoming a Green Freeport is an important element of the collective Scottish and UK effort to reach net zero, connecting Acorn’s CO2 capture and permanent geological storage to emitters in central Scotland, English Freeports such as Thames and Solent, as well as international customers.

“As each day passes, the climate crisis worsens. It is vital we push hard to get important carbon reduction developments like Acorn online as swiftly as possible.

“The North East Scotland Green Freeport will accelerate and amplify the Scottish Cluster, including CO2 import facilities at Peterhead Port and Europe’s first, at-scale, direct air capture plant which can support a new sustainable aviation fuel sector and help abate CO2 emissions from the transport sector.”

More than 100 business leaders and politicians recently signed a statement in support of the North East Scotland Green Freeport bid which supporters said will create 32,000 jobs and boost the economy by £8.5 billion over the next decade.

Sustainable aviation fuel does not need aeroplanes or airports to be updated with new technology, and about 500,000 flights have already flown using the fuel.

Councillor Anne Stirling, deputy leader of Aberdeenshire Council, said the Green Freeport “would play a critical role in building on the region’s low carbon technologies and accelerating Scotland’s ambition of achieving net zero by 2045″.

“Not only is this a positive step towards decarbonising the region, but the site would also create hundreds of green jobs and accelerate the just transition of our workforce,” she said.

“This is an exciting venture and we will continue to work closely with partners on its delivery.”