SCOTCH whisky maker Whyte & Mackay has thrown its weight behind a bid to create a green freeport in the Highlands, saying it would help the distiller to reach its 2030 net-zero target.

The firm voiced its support for the project in a letter included with the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium’s bid, submitted to UK and Scottish ministers in June.

The company owns five distilleries across Scotland. It the largest distiller in the north of the country and the one of the first expected to make use of the green hydrogen produced from the planned electrolyser in Cromarty Firth.

Two of its distilleries, Invergordon and The Dalmore, sit on the shores of the Cromarty Firth.

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Scottish Power and Storegga announced plans to develop a new green hydrogen plant in the area after teaming up with Whyte & Macka and fellow distillers Glenmorangie and Diageo – as well as the Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) – to fund a feasibility study of the plans.

The plant would be one of the UK’s largest, and by 2025 should be capable of producing up to 0 tonnes of green hydrogen per day.

Shane Healy, Whyte & Mackay’s distilling director, wrote: “We have set a target to be carbon neutral by 2030 and we have a number of key projects to allow us to achieve this. Central to this is green gas, with a balanced approach between bio gas and green hydrogen.

“We plan to begin taking green hydrogen from the electrolyser when operational; initially requiring two tonnes of green hydrogen per day. This is expected to rise to six tonnes per day by around 2030. This will require an infrastructure capex spend of circa £4-6 million by 2030.

“We are also heavily investing in a green biomethane anaerobic digestor plant that would have green hydrogen blended into its supply to allow us to generate enough green, carbon free gas to meet our ambition before 2030.”

Healy continued: “The Cromarty Firth area is of central importance to our business and where we also hold the vast majority of our maturing whisky inventory.

“The freeport tax incentive can help accelerate the scale-up of the electrolyser and also reduce the cost of green hydrogen.

“The Opportunity Cromarty Firth submission is centred in the areas where we have our largest distilling and maturation footprint and we are fully supportive of it and the benefit it can bring to our area.”

Speaking on behalf of OCF, PoCF chief executive Bob Buskie said: “We would like to sincerely thank Whyte & Mackay for their strong expression of support for our bid.

“It, along with Glenmorangie, Diageo, ScottishPower and Storegga have been instrumental in driving the development of a green hydrogen industry in the Highlands and fully support the scaling up of that industry that can be accelerated by the award of green freeport status.

“As well as helping decarbonise industries, it is a sector that will play an important role in the drive towards regional and national energy security, creating high-quality green careers and supply chain opportunities.”