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Council / Energy hub funding requests amount to nearly £8m

Image: Orion Project/SIC

THE SHETLAND energy hub project has applied for nearly £8 million in government funding to help kick-start the development.

A total of £5 million for developing hydrogen production is being sought from government money earmarked for Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles as part of the recently announced islands deal.

A further £2.8 million has been applied for from the Scottish Government’s energy transition fund, with the results of the bid expected to be announced by the end of November.

A warning was sound at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s harbour board on Wednesday, however, that more people with specific expertise needed to be on board before the project can fully reach its potential.

The Orion Project – formerly titled Shetland Energy Hub – aims at nothing less than securing a “clean, sustainable energy future for Shetland and the UK”. It is being led by the council and Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Technology Centre.

Among its many planned activities is using renewable electricity to power offshore oil and gas platforms, while also producing “industrial quantities” of hydrogen.

Other potential opportunities include the repurposing of infrastructure, production of green hydrogen and the redevelopment of parts of Sullom Voe Terminal.

It all comes against the backdrop of reducing a reliance on the oil and gas sector while maintaining jobs in energy.

A report on the project said it “will transform the nature of energy provision in Shetland and could generate £4.9bn in revenue annually and secure over 1,750 jobs in Shetland by 2050”.

The council’s project lead Douglas Irvine suggested he was hopeful of a positive outcome from the bid for £2.8 million of funding, which would be used to develop pilot exercises and concept studies.

“I think the submission we have made to the Scottish Government is a very positive one,” he said.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise has now also joined the project team, a meeting of Wednesday’s harbour board heard.

Irvine said the idea of powering offshore platforms from the shore in an attempt for the industry to go ‘green’ is the most advanced element of the project.

But he said his fear was that without more people and expertise involved some of the ideas may slip back.

Harbour board chairwoman Andrea Manson asked if the council was “ahead of the ball game” with the project.

Irvine said the project was not ahead of the game yet – but it is “in the game”.

Lerwick councillor Amanda Hawick also said it was important to engage the likes of schools, which could help to involve Shetland’s future generation.

She also pondered if the project could also encourage talented Shetlanders working away from the isles to return.

“Maybe it’s time to attract some of them to come back home,” she said.

The project was described during Wednesday’s meeting as a complex but hugely important one for Shetland’s future – but something which will take time to develop.

However, the recent pace of change in the energy industry was highlighted.

During discussions over the drive to reduce emissions the fishing fleet was raised, and boats’ reliance on fuel.

Council infrastructure director John Smith said the fleet is “wholly dependent on hydrocarbons at the moment, and that will have to change”.

The report on the Orion project, meanwhile, is now set to go on a merry-go-round around council committees over the coming fortnight.

It will go in front of the development committee next week before being heard by the policy and resources committee and the full council.