"Green hydrogen" could be produced at a site in the Highlands for use as an alternative to fossil fuels.
It has been proposed that ports and distilleries around the Cromarty Firth could be among the first to be supplied with the fuel.
A planned "hub" on the firth would make the hydrogen in a process using electricity generated by offshore and onshore wind farms.
A feasibility study has begun and the project could be operational by 2023.
The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme involves organisations including energy firms ScottishPower and Pale Blue Dot Energy, as well as the Port of Cromarty Firth and distillers Glenmorangie, Whyte and Mackay and Diageo.
The drinks companies have been looking for ways to move away from the use of fossil fuels to power sources less harmful to the planet.
Port of Nigg on the Cromarty Firth could also be among the sites supplied with hydrogen.
Making the fuel involves using a system called an electrolyser, which breaks water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The process requires large amounts of power. To make the hydrogen "green" - environmentally-friendly - the electricity needed is usually generated by wind or solar farms.
The North of Scotland Hydrogen Programme is looking at how large offshore wind farms in the Moray Firth and onshore wind farms in the Highlands could play a part in the planned green hydrogen hub.
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