Work is about to begin on a £20m, nine-month ‘capital dredge’, removing 2.5 million cubic metres of sand in order to reopen Ardersier port.
In the 1970s, the site 14 miles east of Inverness was one of the largest oil rig fabrication yards in the world, employing up to 4,500 workers.
At more than 400 acres – and with more than a kilometre of quayside – Ardersier is the largest brownfield port in the UK.
Now new owners are aiming to transform it into Europe’s first circular Energy Transition Facility – recycling the oil rigs of the past to make foundations for future fleets of floating offshore windfarms. It is anticipated thousands of long-term jobs will follow.
Over the next five years, a £300m green steel plant, powered by offshore wind and energy from waste, is also planned, alongside a concrete production plant utilising dredged sand from the port, and a dedicated hub for concrete floating wind foundation manufacturing.
Ardersier Port already has an agreement with floating wind firm BW Ideol, guaranteeing exclusive access to the port for the manufacture of concrete floating wind foundations.
Once the dredging is complete next summer, Ardersier Port will build a bespoke slipway to allow floating oil and gas structures to be hauled onshore prior to removing all contaminants and decommissioning them.
Last week, a report by industry body Oil and Gas UK estimated there will be more than a million tonnes of North Sea topsides coming ashore this decade, much of which can be recycled.
Ardersier Port owner Steve Regan said: “At Ardersier we can lead the UK’s Green Industrial Revolution by using circular economy practices to deliver new low carbon infrastructure built on the by-products of our oil and gas past.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to create a world-leading industrial and offshore wind manufacturing facility here in the UK.”
Ardersier Port owner Tony O’Sullivan said: “By building a new renewable-powered electric arc furnace at Ardersier Port, the first new-build steel mill in the UK for 50 years, we will utilise a million tonnes of scrap each year.
“This will produce reinforcement steel for the UK construction industry, of which there is currently a shortfall, allow for the onsite construction of floating wind platforms, and enable us to export green steel to global markets.”
BW Ideol is one of three partners – together with Elicio and BayWa r.e. – in the Floating Energy Allyance which has submitted applications for offshore wind development rights in the ScotWind leasing round run by Crown Estate Scotland, with a decision due early next year.
The Allyance has pledged to manufacture all its floating concrete foundations in Scotland, creating almost 4000 jobs.
BW Ideol’s chief executive Paul de la Gueriviere said: “The lack of large infrastructure is a bottle neck to deliver the number of floating foundations required for the UK market’s ambitious development plans, both in terms of local content and the production rate expected.
“By securing exclusive access to Ardersier Port, BW Ideol is reaffirming its commitment to manufacture its floating foundations locally, maximising the benefit for Scotland and the rest of UK, without conditions.”
Gavin MacKay, Head of Energy Industries at Highlands and Islands Enterprise says: “We are encouraged to see Ardersier Port being actively developed to support the offshore energy industries – this was the original purpose of the site and one to which it is still well suited.
“Offshore wind, in particular, is poised for significant growth, and the facility offers real potential for the local production and assembly of the large components that will be required by that industry.”
Earlier this month, the UK Government announced up to £160m in new funding to kickstart the rollout of large-scale floating offshore wind ports and factories across the country, and it is expected Ardersier Port will bid for these funds.
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