Having one of the longest deep-water quays in Scotland has proven beneficial for the Port of Cromarty Firth, with a number of lucrative offshore wind farm development projects in the pipeline and optimism regarding its bid to become a Green Freeport
THE ScotWind lease round, announced on 17th January this year, opened the floodgates for a massive expansion of Scotland’s offshore wind sector.
Bob Buskie, Chief Executive of Port of Cromarty Firth, said: “The much-anticipated announcement from Scotwind is the first round of offshore wind leasing in a decade and is of major importance to the Cromarty Firth, as well as the Highlands and Scotland.”
Congratulating the consortium’s successful bidders, Buskie added: “The port of Cromarty Firth has been identified as a key strategic asset for Scotland, particularly in the manufacture and assembly of new floating wind technology. We are armed and ready to seize the opportunity alongside the successful developers and our partners in Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF).
CEO of the Port of Cromarty Firth, Bob Buskie
“We are working together to create a port cluster and sustainable economic impact in the Highlands for years to come. This is a real game-changing opportunity for the Highlands and Scotland.”
Joanne Allday, Strategic Business Development Manager at the port, notes that ahead of the auction, the Scottish Crown Estate office had estimated that the Scottish supply chain sector would see around £1billion in investment for every gigawatt of offshore and floating wind turbines at the auction.
“The Scottish Government had expected to award 8-10 gigawatts of offshore installed capacity from the Scotwind round in January. In fact, Crown Estate Scotland awarded a capacity of 25 gigawatts. This could bring a huge £25bn cash windfall to the Scottish and UK supply chain, with a number of ports, including ours, well positioned to benefit,” she comments.
A number of the offshore sites approved in the Scotwind Round are ideally located to allow the Firth to play a key role in both the construction and operational phases of these offshore sites. “We assume that the region will secure a long-term project pipeline that will be enormous for the port and the fjord as a whole,” says Allday.
A report by the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council (SOWEC) last year identified the Firth as Scotland’s leading location for the formation of a strategic national offshore windport cluster that could provide a huge economic boost for the nation.
Allday points out that the port’s £30million, 372-metre-long Quay West development, along with a 90,000-square-metre mooring area, has now been completed, making it one of the longest deep-water quays in Scotland. This together with the 10 hectares of moorings and 12 meters water depth, experience and port and regional supply chain puts the Port of Cromarty Firth in an ideal position to attract a large proportion of offshore wind farm construction.
“The market response to the completion of Quay West has been fantastic. This is now one of the best establishments in Scotland, if not the UK. The recently announced UK Energy Security Strategy from the Westminster Government calls for an acceleration of offshore wind deployment and we at PoCF are now ready to get started,” she says.
The port is also increasingly involved in the green hydrogen “revolution”. “Due to our existing infrastructure and access to green electricity, we had a significant interest in green hydrogen production and distribution prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
This war has drawn attention across Europe to the critical importance of energy security. Green hydrogen, where wind energy drives the electrolysis of seawater, is seeing a surge in demand, and the European Union has recently quadrupled its hydrogen targets, with most being imported,” says Allday.
“With Scotland having 26 per cent of Europe’s wind resources and a constrained electricity grid, many of the consortia that were successful in the Scotwind Round are interested in developing green hydrogen to bring the energy they will produce to market bring,” she says.
Allday points out that the Scottish Government has a target of producing around 5GW of clean hydrogen by 2030. “There is a clear intention to develop Scotland into a leading exporter of green hydrogen to Europe,” she comments.
The Firth plays a key role in this. A study last July examined the feasibility of locating a large hydrogen electrolysis plant in the Firth. The study, dubbed the North of Scotland Hydrogen Program “Distilleries Project,” found that there are a number of sites around the Firth that could host the proposed 35MW electrolyser plant.
According to Allday, the project is backed by a range of partners including Scottish Power and Storegga, as well as drinks giants Glenmorangie, Whyte & Mackay and Diageo. The electrolyser is scheduled to go into operation by 2024 and produce up to 14 tons of green hydrogen per day.
The study has now passed the first feasibility phase and the concept is being refined. The 2024 deadline for the operation of the electrolyser is now expected to work.
Distillers require heat as a key element of their production process and providing that heat from green hydrogen will help help Scotland meet its net zero targets. The port is also in the final stages of preparing its application for Green Freeport status, which will be decided by the UK and Scottish governments. “Offers from interested ports must be received by June 20th. A decision is expected in August and we believe two Green Freeports will be announced.”
“We believe we have great opportunities, especially when bids are judged on their job creation, fair work and contribution to the decarbonization agenda,” says Allday.