Winter School 2017 Blog: a platform to meet, discuss future collaborations and of course form friendships

This blog was provided by Abitha Balashanmugam, The University of Sheffield and Rachel Wignall, University of Edinburgh.

The first two days of the school involved key presentations by industry experts spanning national and international policies, CCS capture technologies and the viability of CCS in the UK in the near future. This was extremely informative, as we were presented with a broad, interdisciplinary approach to CCS in which every attendee was able to learn something new; ranging from the capture techniques, storage geology and CCS economics. This was followed by an ECR Poster Session, during which attendees presented their cutting edge research taking place in both carbon capture and storage.

The third day compromised of a visit to GE in Rugby, in which attendees were treated to an extremely informative tour of their turbine blade modelling plant. Upon arrival, the engineers at GE introduced us to the labs and we were divided into 5 sub-groups to solve an existing problem; how to track the precise location of a probe that monitored flow downstream of the low pressure turbine, in order to prevent blade damage.  We were soon busily engaged in thought provoking discussions as to how each of us would go about solving the problem. It was interesting to note that most of us engineers in the groups had all thought of similar solutions whereas a geochemist (Rachel Wignall) thought of solving the problem via a less traditional and fresh approach.  

Perhaps the most interesting part of the week was the group activity; drafting group responses to energy related government consultation calls based upon evidence. This task was cleverly thought of and executed by Dr. Rosemary Whitbread and Mr. Philip Sharman. It was an insightful exercise that required having to defend our own opinions as an individual within the group and finally, presenting our collated response as a group to the audience and judges. The group presentations were extremely helpful in informing all of us of the current issues pertaining to clean fossil energy and low carbon technologies, including fracking and the future of coal. During the evidence gathering process, we also inadvertently, learnt more about the problems and government perspectives on CCS including the UK White Papers on Energy over the years. My group reviewed a paper calling for change to make the UK’s energy system smarter and more flexible. We conceded as a group that this would not be possible in terms of modernising the energy grid unless policies specifically targeted for energy storage and smart systems were to be proposed and implemented.  

As early career researchers we learnt how policy is moulded based on evidence and what it meant for the future of green energy on both a national and international level. The exercise neatly tied up the lectures over the week to help us realise how policy could influence the development of innovative research and vice versa. It certainly gave us a deeper appreciation and understanding of the issues involved in trying to secure a steady supply of clean and affordable energy, whilst reducing CO2 emissions from existing sources of energy. It was definitely a key thought for us all to take away and reflect upon from the week in order to make our own research more relevant to the 2050 decarbonisation target. 

As a group of ECR’s from different universities and academic backgrounds, the Winter School provided us the platform to meet, discuss work and possible future collaborations and of course form friendships. We would like to thank Dr. Fay Campbell and the UKCCSRC for giving us the opportunity to attend the Winter School, the University of Nottingham for graciously hosting us and in particular Professor Colin Snape for organising the event along with Dr. Anup Patel and  Ms. Diane Vincent. Last but not least, thanks to all the keynote speakers and the students and staff of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Carbon Capture and Storage and Cleaner Fossil Energy for making the Winter School a memorable experience.