A SCOTLAND Office minister has welcomed as “good news” his government’s decision to overlook a major carbon capture project in Aberdeenshire.

The Acorn Project, due to be in St Fergus in Aberdeenshire, is now likely to come in the second phase of the UK's carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) cluster sequencing process after the first facility is set to be built on the Humber and around Liverpool.

Emissions would be drawn from the North Sea and the refinery in Grangemouth via pipelines and stored in the north east facility.

The Scottish cluster will now be considered as a "reserve" with the energy minister, Greg Hands, saying that if "the Government chooses to discontinue engagement with a cluster in Track-1, we can engage with this reserve cluster instead".

The decision has been branded a “betrayal” by the SNP and described as “disappointing” by the Scottish Tories.

READ MORE: 'Complete betrayal': UK Government snubs Scottish carbon capture project

But the news was welcome by Scotland Office minister Malcolm Offord, who was handed the UK Government role after being appointed to the House of Lords.

He said: "The strong potential of the Acorn project has been confirmed by the bidding process. That's good news for the future and, while I know the bid team will be disappointed not to have made the first cut, it’s encouraging that the Scottish Cluster is a reserve and I’m confident it will continue to develop and compete for the next round of funding.

The National: Scotland Office minister Malcolm OffordScotland Office minister Malcolm Offord

“To date, the UK Government has allocated £31 million supporting the development of the scheme and it remains a key player in meeting ambitious carbon capture goals that would see 20-30 megatonnes of carbon dioxide stripped out by 2030.”

He added: “Scotland has a world-leading energy sector and the UK Government will continue to invest in its future.”

READ MORE: Scotland leads huge international climate agreement affecting nearly 2bn people

Environmentalists, meanwhile, accused ministers of “greenwashing” and said plans for carbon capture should be abandoned.

Alex Lee, Friends of the Earth Scotland climate campaigner, commented: “The UK Government should not be pouring further millions of public money into prolonging the life of fossil fuel companies via the carbon capture pipe dreams at St Fergus or anywhere else.

“Carbon capture and storage is a dangerous distraction from the necessary action to cut climate emissions from our energy sector and transition away from oil and gas throughout the crucial decade up to 2030.

“The Scottish Government’s plan of relying on CCS to do the heavy lifting of Scotland's emissions cuts by 2030 has already been criticised by MSPs because of its expense and unreliability.

“Carbon capture is the latest industry greenwashing tactic and has a long history of over-promising and under-delivering. Public money would deliver more jobs, faster emissions cuts and bigger boosts to wellbeing if it was invested in a range of renewables and energy efficiency measures instead of being wasted on more illusory carbon capture projects.”

Under the UK Government’s CCUS scheme, four projects are being selected in total. Two are to be operational by 2025 and two more by 2030, each sharing a £1bn pot.