THE new owners of Ardersier Port are planning to transform it into the first fully circular energy transition facility, recycling old oil rigs into the foundation for offshore windfarms in a move that could deliver thousands of jobs.

In its heyday in the 1970s, ­Ardersier was the site of McDermott oil and gas fabrication yard, one of the largest such facilities in the world, employing up to 4500 people.

The currently unused port, 14 miles east of Inverness, is – at more than 400 acres and with more than a kilometre of quayside – the largest brownfield port in the UK.

Work is about to begin on a £20 million, nine-month “capital dredge” to remove 2.5 million cubic metres of sand – equivalent to 1000 ­Olympic swimming pools – to reopen the ­massive port.

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Over the next five years, its new owners have said they will deliver an oil rig decommissioning facility; a waste from energy recovery facility; a £300m green steel plant powered by offshore wind and energy from waste; a concrete production plant using dredged sand from the port, steel plant by-products and energy from waste facility; and a dedicated floating wind hub to make concrete floating wind facility foundations.

They say this will create the largest floating wind foundation fabrication, manufacturing and assembly facility in the UK – in a market predicted to deliver 29,000 jobs and £43.6 billion to the UK economy by 2050. Ardersier Port already has an agreement with floating wind leader BW Ideol, guaranteeing them exclusive access to manufacture their concrete floating wind foundations.

When the dredging is complete in summer, Ardersier Port will build a bespoke slipway to allow floating oil and gas structures to be hauled onshore prior to removing contaminants and decommissioning them.

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.

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“This is a once-in-a-generation ­opportunity to create a world-leading industrial and offshore wind manufacturing facility here in the UK.”

BW Ideol is one of three partners – with Elicio and BayWa r.e – in the Floating Energy Allyance, which has applied for offshore wind development rights in the ScotWind leasing round. It has pledged to manufacture all its floating concrete foundations here, creating almost 4000 jobs.

BW Ideol CEO, Paul de la Gueriviere, said: “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.”