What is a net-zero hub and why do we need one in the Firth of Forth?
The area is identified as a prime site for such a development in a new report from energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie due to the high concentration of polluting heavy industry located around its shores.
The Grangemouth and Mossmorran cluster, which includes petrochemicals plants and refineries, is the the largest industrial centre in Scotland.
It is responsible for bringing in significant sums to the Scottish economy, but also accounts for around 10 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions and remains stubbornly difficult to decarbonise.
Tackling these emissions will be fundamental to achieving the national target to reach net zero by 2045.
Creation of a net-zero hub is being proposed as an effective solution for some of the most stubborn problems in achieving that goal while potentially creating thousands of new jobs.
Similar developments are already being established south of the border – Net Zero Teeside, Zero Carbon Humber and HyNet North West.
So what is a net-zero hub?
It’s an aggregate of complementary businesses, technologies and services which have the common challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Malcolm Forbes-Cable, vice president of consulting at the firm, describes it as a concentrated area of supply and demand, where there is symbiosis between operations – such as polluters side-by-side with producers of clean fuel.
Pioneering technologies such as carbon capture, usage and storage and hydrogen generation could be developed at the site and used to help lower emissions.
What makes the Firth of Forth the ideal site for a net-zero hub?
Firstly, because it his home to the biggest industrial cluster in the country, so there will be economies of scale for any future developments. It is also ideal due to its size and the site being well served with existing infrastructure, some of which – like the Forties oil pipeline – could be repurposed for alternative uses.
Its central location is also in its favour, plus it has great air, road, rail and sea transport links, deep-water port facilities and access to abundant renewable energy resources.
And not forgetting the people – there is a wealth of expertise and knowledge among workers and researchers linked to the various industries around the Forth.
Why do we need one?
Mr Forbes-Cable stresses that we can’t just “wish away” the climate impacts of the industrial sector and should capitalise on the enormous economic potential of decarbonisation.
“It’s about reducing emissions, but it’s also about a sustainable economy,” he said.
The report states: “The Firth of Forth industrial cluster has developed over two centuries, with a strong history of innovation, adapting to changing markets and consumer demands.
“It has powered the national economy, produced the building blocks for the pharmaceutical industry, as well as multiple materials and products essential to modern life.
“The transition to a low-carbon economy is not about switching old industries off, but about adapting, innovating and transitioning them to sustainable operations.
“The Firth of Forth industrial hub should play a central role in Scotland’s net-zero strategy and continue to be a driver of economic growth and job creation.”