A plant to make low-carbon aviation fuel from waste could create up to 920 jobs in Peterhead and be worth £133 million to the local economy.
The proposal to establish a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant at St Fergus is a key plank of a bid to establish one of two green freeports in Aberdeen and Peterhead.
Backers of the North East Scotland Green Freeport say the plant could play a significant role in making air travel greener, if given the go-ahead in coming weeks.
Made using household and post-recycling municipal waste, agricultural and forestry residues and waste fats, it has been estimated SAF can generate carbon savings of upwards of 70% compared to fossil jet fuel.
The north-east is one of five regions in Scotland bidding to win green freeport status under a scheme agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments – but only two will win.
The bid also includes a share of £52 million of government funding and a decision is expected to be made in coming weeks.
The figures for a SAF plant based in Peterhead come from a report commissioned by industry body, Sustainable Aviation.
Green freeport status could help retain and create jobs
Overall it found a UK SAF industry could deliver £2.9 billion annually to the UK economy, create 20,200 clean growth jobs in SAF production and export services, with UK production saving 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2038.
Other areas vying for a green freeport include Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF), the consortium leading the bid for green freeport status on the west coast.
Orkney Council has also thrown its hat into the ring for an Orkney Green Freeport.
Two further bids in the central belt include the Firth of Forth Green Freeport and the Clyde Green Freeport.
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.”
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: “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.”
Green freeport support
More than 100 business leaders and politicians recently signed a statement in support of the North East Scotland Green Freeport bid which supporters claim 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.”
Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid said: “In addition to our Acorn CCS and hydrogen project plans at St Fergus, the creation of a SAF facility has the power to drive global change and create a brighter, more sustainable future for generations to come.
“This is why I’m continuing to push for the Acorn Project to go ahead as soon as possible.
“A SAF facility would harness the power of our region’s highly skilled workforce, create thousands of jobs in Banff and Buchan and grow our emerging sectors.
“Having engaged with Sustainable Aviation when I was Scotland Office minister, St Fergus was raised back then and it’s truly exciting to see the prospect of these plans coming to fruition.
“Both of Scotland’s governments must now press on with taking advantage of the phenomenal benefits of this north-east bid.”