UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference – Plenary 2 and Closing Keynote (ECR Meeting Fund)

Aylin Kemal (Cranfield University) and Muir Freer (University of Manchester) share their takeaways from Plenary session 2 and the Closing Keynote at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.

Social Licence to Operate for Industrial Decarbonisation in the North West and Humber Clusters

Dr Diarmaid Clery, from the University of Manchester, delivered the first talk of plenary 2. The focus was on stakeholder workshops that aimed to secure a Social Licence to Operate (SLO) for Industrial Decarbonisation in the North West and Humber Industrial Clusters.

Key Takeaways:

  • Policy for Operators: Dr Clery highlighted the need for policies that help operators gain ongoing support from a wide array of stakeholders, including community regulators and decision-makers.
  • Spectrum of Sectors: A multi-sectoral approach is essential for building local credibility and trust, which are key for effective emissions reduction.
  • Regional Specificity: Understanding each cluster’s unique histories and conditions is crucial for shaping the regulatory landscape.
  • North West and Humber: Stakeholders in these regions are committed to decarbonisation but face unique challenges, such as public awareness and workforce skills. These nuances are important for tailoring SLO strategies.
  • Stakeholder Network: The session touched on the dynamic stakeholder network that informs the SLO baseline, emphasising the need for regular updates based on local developments.
  • Social Media and Youth: Social media plays a vital role in securing an SLO, particularly among younger generations, serving as a key platform for public engagement.
  • Project Overview: The ultimate goal is to assess and develop conditions for maintaining the licensing capacity of clusters, with a focus on the North West and Humber regions.

By offering a comprehensive look into the complexities of gaining an SLO for Industrial Decarbonisation, this session provided invaluable insights for stakeholders involved in these projects.

Drax’s Report on ‘BECCS Done Well: Conditions for Success for Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage’

Dr Gareth Johnson, from Drax, led the second session. Known for its transition from coal to biomass, Drax is now exploring Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) as its next decarbonisation step.

Key Takeaways:

  • Background: Drax, once the UK’s largest coal-fired power station, has pivoted to biomass and is now eyeing BECCS for further decarbonisation.
  • Independent Inquiry: Drax commissioned an inquiry to assess BECCS feasibility and identify success conditions.
  • Accountability: Dr Johnson highlighted Drax’s comprehensive response to the ‘BECCS Done Well’ Report’s 30 Conditions. The publication of an ‘Evidence Book’ was noted as particularly reassuring for stakeholders.
  • Governance: Drax has revamped its internal sustainability governance to enhance transparency and accountability.
  • Commitments: Drax has positively responded to almost all 30 Conditions, indicating a major policy shift and a focus on sustainability.
  • Addressing Controversies: Dr Johnson called for a more robust approach to complex issues like carbon accounting and debt, advocating for greater stakeholder engagement.
  • Engagement: Proactive dialogue with key stakeholders, including NGOs and think tanks, is essential, as underscored by several of the 30 Conditions.
  • Carbon Dioxide Removal: Dr Johnson clarified that carbon removal should complement, not replace, emission reduction efforts.
  • Conditions for Success: Regulatory frameworks, technological advancements, and stakeholder engagement are crucial for BECCS’s success.
  • Next Steps: Dr Johnson concluded by outlining Drax’s future plans in light of the inquiry’s findings.

By offering a comprehensive look into the prerequisites for successful BECCS deployment, Plenary 2 provided invaluable insights for stakeholders in bioenergy and carbon capture.

UK Infrastructure Bank’s Role in Financing CCUS Projects

The third presentation was by Emily Sidhu of the UK Infrastructure Bank, an independent entity fully owned by the Treasury. The focus was on the bank’s strategies and challenges in financing Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) projects.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bank’s Mission: The UK Infrastructure Bank’s strategic plan revolves around two pillars: tackling climate change and supporting regional economies. Every project it invests in must align with at least one of these objectives.
  • Financial Resources: The bank has set aside £22 billion for investment over the next 5-8 years, subdivided into £4 billion for local authorities and £18 billion for other investments.
  • Private Sector Partnership: An additional £8 billion is allocated for direct investment guarantees, highlighting the bank’s commitment to private sector collaboration.
  • Stakeholder Collaboration: Emily Sidhu emphasised the bank’s aim to partner with both the private sector and local governments. While specific partners were not named, the focus was on building trust across sectors.
  • Key Considerations for CCUS Financing: The session explored the specific factors for CCUS financing, from robust methodologies for carbon capture measurement to the importance of stakeholder engagement for sustainability.
  • Challenges and Opportunities: The bank acknowledges the complexities of financing CCUS, including technological risks and market uncertainties, but also sees opportunities for innovation and economic growth.

By offering a comprehensive look into the financial aspects of CCUS, this session provided invaluable insights for stakeholders interested in the economic dimensions of decarbonisation projects.

Keynote Session: Department of Energy Security and Net Zero’s Strategic Actions for CCS and BECCS

The final keynote session was by Chris Thackeray, from the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero. With nearly a decade in global energy policy, Thackeray announced he will be leaving government service by the year’s end.

 Key Takeaways:

  • Policy Shifts: Thackeray revealed that the UK is nearing the launch of its first commercial-scale CCS project, a significant policy milestone backed by extensive research.
  • Global Influence: The UK’s cluster model for CCS and BECCS has gained international recognition. Thackeray stated that this model has influenced countries from Japan to South America, making the UK a leader in the field.
  • Financial Aspects: Thackeray discussed the financials of CCS, mentioning a theoretical £78 billion investment for sensor stores in the UK continental shelf. He also touched on the logistical challenges tied to these financial elements.
  • Sector-Specific Aims: The department is setting targeted goals for different sectors to attract investment and ensure effective storage facility performance.
  • Regional Considerations: Thackeray emphasized the importance of understanding the unique conditions of each region or cluster, as these will inform the overall CCS and BECCS strategy.
  • Public Understanding: Thackeray acknowledged the public’s limited understanding of CCS and BECCS, indicating a need for further educational efforts.

By offering a comprehensive look into the department’s strategic actions, the keynote session provided a well-rounded view of the UK’s efforts to facilitate the deployment of CCS and BECCS technologies.