An ambitious plan to tackle fuel poverty in the islands is to be launched which could see a new oil processing plant built in one of Scotland’s island groups – the Western Isles, Shetland or Orkney.
Sheltand born businessman George Irvine is spearheading the plans for the project which he says would convert crude oil into low price, low sulphur diesel for fishing boats and other vessels and also drastically lower the price of domestic home heating oil across all three island groups.
Speaking to BBC Shetland Mr Irvine explained: “We are looking to create a level playing field by supplying the islands, who suffer from huge amount of domestic fuel poverty.
“We plan to site a plant which will consist of a jetty, storage facility and processing facility. We will be looking to process crude oil, which will be turned into those products, but there definitely is a need to tackle fuel poverty.”
A household is considered to be in fuel poverty if it needs to spend 10 per cent, or more, of income on all fuel use in order to heat the dwelling to an acceptable standard.
Statistics suggest that around 56 per cent of homes in the Western Isles are in fuel poverty. These figures are the incentive behind Mr Irvine’s ambitious plans which has become something of a passion project for him.
“When the new 2020 regulations come into effect then all marine vessels within European sector will need 0.1 percent sulphur content and our technology is designed to provide us with low sulphur fuel,” he continued.
“We will focus on the local market as well as passing market for supply vessels or cruise ships.
“It seems surreal we have one of the biggest oil terminals yet every drop of refined product is imported form the mainland so looking to change things by siting a facility in Orkney, Shetland or the Western Isles.
“We have used drone photography in Shetland to identify possible areas and we will do the same soon in the Western Isles and Orkney.”
Mr Irvine estimates the new project could be up and running within three years as he believes his project are already making great strides.
“We are looking at the appraisal phase of the project and by end of that we will have identified a specific location, environment source assessment.
“We are ahead of the game and have done much already, with the models saying it should be 36 months.”
All residents of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland would receive a discount card which they could show at the pumps when purchasing fuel which would then see a discount applied which is the only way Mr Irvine believes the discount would be passed down to those who need it most.
“We all want to make a difference if we can,” adds Mr Irvine.