THOUSANDS of ‘high-quality’ jobs will be created in Barrow and across the whole of Cumbria thanks to a multi-billion pound project, it has been announced.

Spirit Energy, the joint venture energy company of Centrica plc and Stadtwerke München GmbH (SWM), has confirmed its plan to convert its depleted South Morecambe and North Morecambe gas fields and Barrow Terminals into a world-class carbon storage cluster.

The plans will provide a carbon storage solution for the UK’s industrial heartlands and is set to be one of the biggest carbon storage and hydrogen production clusters in the UK.

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Under current projections the project has the capacity to store up to one gigaton of CO₂ - which equates to roughly three years’ worth of UK CO₂ current emissions.

If granted a licence by the North Sea Transition Authority and subject to other regulatory approvals, the project will support the UK’s Net Zero ambitions and is expected to support thousands of highly skilled green jobs in Cumbria and the North West, as well as jobs in Spirit Energy’s Aberdeen office.

It will provide a multi-billion-pound investment in the local economy, promoting growth and further investment across the region.

Thanks to the location of the site near the Port of Barrow, the project will be able to accept CO₂ transported by ship.

This will mean industrial sites which do not have a direct connection to a CO₂ pipeline can access a feasible and realistic solution to deal with their carbon emissions, remain profitable and meet climate change goals.

Neil McCulloch, CEO of Spirit Energy, said: “Our project will introduce cost-effective decarbonisation to businesses all over the UK, with a multi-billion-pound facility which means that a connection to a CO₂ export pipeline is no longer necessary to access carbon storage.

"Our new cluster will provide a solution for the UK’s industrial heartlands to reduce their carbon emissions, while also injecting significant green investment into Cumbria and the North West of England, where we have a proud history of working closely with the community and supporting local jobs and enterprise.”

Chris O’Shea, chairman of the Board of Spirit Energy and CEO of Centrica plc, said: “This new cluster is a world-leading project that will promote growth, create jobs, and support the UK’s Net Zero ambitions. At Centrica, we are focussed on exploring how our assets can become an integral part of the energy transition to help our customers and the business achieve Net Zero. We’re pleased that this innovative project sets us up for long-term success to do just that.”

Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “The conversation about our climate is one which continues to, quite rightly, gather pace across Furness.

"I’ve long since campaigned for clean energy solutions and reducing our carbon footprint to meet the target of being net zero by 2050. It is great, therefore, to see a project of this scale come to Barrow and I look forward to seeing it develop.

“This new cluster will put Barrow on the map as a centre for low-carbon innovation, bringing thousands of high-quality jobs to our town and across the whole of Cumbria, while also securing future employment for those already working on the gas fields.”

Jo Lappin, chief executive of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Major businesses like Spirit Energy are backing Cumbria and channelling billions into our local economy. This new cluster will bring immense benefits to Cumbria - not only does it promise to create thousands of local jobs, it also has the potential to attract further international investment as the carbon storage cluster develops. I look forward to working with the Spirit and Centrica teams to continue to maximise the project benefits for people all over Cumbria.”

With the North and South Morecambe gas fields coming to the end of their productive life, the project will also harness the skills and knowledge of more than 300 workers currently based at the site and will provide continued job security with the new multi-billion-pound facility.

Additionally, the two gas fields have the potential to form the core of a future low-carbon hub, thanks to their location in the North West and connectivity in the area.