Challenges Facing CCS Plenary Session – UKCCSRC Biannual Cambridge April 2014

Written by Ponfa Roy Bitrus, research student at the University of Aberdeen who attended the UKCCSRC Biannual Meeting – CCS in the Bigger Picture – held in Cambridge 2-3 April 2014 with financial support from the UKCCSRC’s ECR Meeting Fund

The last plenary session of the biannual meeting was titled Challenges facing CCS and was chaired by Baroness Bryony Worthington.

The session kicked off with Prof David Cope from the University of Cambridge who talked about Communicating CCS. With an extensive background and wealth of experience spanning his involvement in CCS, use of fossil fuels and climate change on local levels to a global scale with longer term implications.

He made emphasis on the fact that all scientist and researchers particularly students involved in CCS should take advantage of the support service provided by the UKCCSRC and be actively involved in communicating. He pointed out the imbalance in communication where the disposal, management, transport and storage aspects are more communicated to the wider community than the capture aspects of CCS. One thing that struck my mind and it is true is from what he said; that people care less about the means by which CO2 can be captured from industrial plants, but they get agitated when they hear there is going to be injection of CO2 around their area. The impact of the media should not be underestimated in contributing either politically or inadvertently to causing confusion.

He also mentioned that as scientists we have to understand that issues will arise such as misunderstandings in communication in some sectors of the media and that the message scientists in the CCS field have to convey is quiet complex, with advanced technology employed which is settled in the entire debate of the issue of climate change. Also another issue which is of paramount importance to be communicated is costs, comparative costs and how cost will change with time, and the milestones reached in CCS both positive and negative.

The second presentation was given by Dr Angela Whelan from the Ecofin Research Foundation on Mobilising private sector for capital for CCS in the UK. Talking on the current partnership between the ETI (Energy Technologies Institute) and Ecofin foundation with a focus on accelerating technological development and how effectively these technologies can be deployed and commercialised. How can the voice and the views of the private sector financers be heard by the Government? This was one of the issues that led to the setup of the foundation, as policy makers do not take into consideration the views of the private financiers.

The joint initiative brings together technical expertise from the ETI and financial network backing from the Ecofin foundation, with a view to engaging new financiers and organisers of mutual interest working in hand with the Crown Estates and CCSA (Carbon capture storage association). 3 things of interest discussed by Whelan include:

  • The initiatives and collective groups set up to help remove the barriers to investing in CCS
  • The barriers to CCS investment
  • The importance of Stakeholder investment

One of the key discussions was on the aim of the initiatives and collaborative effort which is to facilitate and help in the commercialisation of projects and ensure the involvement of financial sectors, address the barriers and provide solutions to make early follow on projects commercial, with the knowledge transfer group leading knowledge communication with CCSA.

The barriers and challenges faced by CCS include: Lack of confidence in long time policy structures, operational and technology risks, and the energy market place challenges all of which to me create additional uncertainty. There needs to be a loop between policy makers-project developers-capital providers, thus all stakeholders need to be fully emerged from the start of a project.

In summary the UK CCS commercial development group are to:

  • Ensure continued involvement of financial and insurance sectors, also draw up collaborative efforts with research centres.
  • Ensure funding mechanisms are fit for purpose
  • To encourage government agency to finance academia
  • Continue to develop a UK CCS policy and regulatory framework
  • Create a bankable contract for CCS.

The third and last of the plenary session was given by Dr David Santillo from the Greenpeace Research Laboratories on CCS in sub-seabed geological formations- Evolution of regulations under the London Protocol and ongoing concerns. David talked more on the legislative or legal barriers giving an introduction into the understanding of why the barriers are in place and the potential consequence of trying to remove them in other to push ahead with the current CCS technology. Talking about the London protocol, its aims to replace the London convention and how it has evolved over the years from a permitting authority into a conventional core environmental protection and this was partly enhanced by the triple ban of dumping wastes and radioactive materials at sea and relating its implications to carbon capture and storage. The London protocol specifies what is permitted for disposal and what is not and has an explicit protection for the seabed and also the subsoil which is of relevance to CCS.

He goes to state that CCS runs counter to the London protocol and this is due to the definition of sea which legally includes the seabed and subsoil and dumping which includes any storage waste in the seabed or subsoil.

Scientific group from the London convention came up with a paper in 1999 that raised concerns about the potential for the effect on the ecosystem if there were leakages and the effects of the monitoring techniques needed and techniques involved which led to a conclusion that fossil fuel derived CO2 was an industrial waste which was advised to the house of parliament, however ignored by the house.

Another issue that came up is on the export of CO2 for disposal contained in the London protocol Article 6; which states that ‘contracting parties shall not allow the export of wastes or other matter to other countries for dumping or incineration at sea’ and this this was viewed as a barrier to development of CCS especially in Europe. So in 2008 efforts began with the aim of overcoming legislative barrier.

Also another issue is on the degree of reporting on the applications of the guidelines, at the London protocol convention meetings till date there has been no report on how the guidelines are being implemented, used or practise.

Key concerns are for the London protocol to a make amendments to facilitate sub-seabed CCS, to properly define the definition of CO2 streams which to date is ambiguous and open to interpretation, the 2009 amendments to allow export of CO2 for sub-seabed CCS was hastily and not properly thought through especially with regards to export to non-contracting parties, and so far no reports exist on the application of the guidelines and how they have being implemented, used or practised and finally the waste prevention audit generally ignored in the case of CCS despite obligations on parties under the London protocol.