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.

Benedict Aduomahor (Heriot-Watt University) and Sunera Athauda (Cranfield University) share their takeaways from “Parallel 2b: Emerging Solutions” at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.

The UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference was a gathering of leading experts across the full CCUS chain – from capture, transportation, storage and financing. The event kicked off with a warm welcome from Jon Gibbins (UKCCSRC and University of Sheffield) and Mohamed Pourkashanian (Energy Institute and University of Sheffield), followed by a thought-provoking keynote address by Ruqaiyah Patel (UKRI-EPSRC), setting the stage for what promised to be an insightful conference.

The second day of the conference delved into a spectrum of topics, including discussions on ‘CO2 Transport Infrastructure’ and ‘Emerging Solutions’. The opening presentation was by Marius Dewar (from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory), who shared insights on ensuring the integrity of CO2 storage through the power of big data analysis and the development of swift, site-specific marine monitoring programs. Marius’s presentation highlighted a significant challenge – the formulation of effective monitoring strategies for offshore CO2 storage, both from regulatory and operator perspectives. The solution proposed was multi-faceted: aiming to demonstrate regulatory compliance, instil confidence, offer quantifiable monitoring strategies, and address operational, regulatory, and societal expectations simultaneously.

The optimal plan advocated for an evidence-based approach, showcasing the chosen strategy’s ability to meet monitoring requirements. However, Marius also emphasised the critical need for transparent communication, especially when dealing with uncertainties, to engage stakeholders, governments and the wider public effectively.

The final presentation, ‘Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of CO2 storage: examples’ was delivered by Chris Holdsworth (from the University of Edinburgh and Carbfix), outlining the joint venture between Switzerland-based Climeworks and Iceland-based Carbfix, named ‘ORCA DAC Project’. Unlike the utilisation of geophysical trapping and monitoring by its Sleipner counterpart, ORCA DAC utilises geochemical-based trapping and monitoring, requiring underground in-situ CO2 mineralisation: the reaction of injected water-dissolved CO2 (i.e., CO32-) and basalt (i.e., Ca/Mg/Fe) to form mineralised CO2 (i.e., CaCO3/MgCO3/FeCO3), and the monitoring of injected radioactive (e.g. 14C) and unreactive (e.g. noble gas/SF6) tracers to verify CO2 sequestration. This presentation defined the crucial validation of the quantity and lifetime of CO2 storage required for financing and authenticating CO2 removal, capture, and storage projects, as a means for the alleviation of global warming and climate change.

In conclusion, the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference proved to be a rewarding and enriching experience for all attendees. The discussions and insights shared during the event serve as valuable resources for addressing the challenges and opportunities in the field of carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

Briggs Ogunedo (Cranfield University) shares his takeaways from “Parallel 2a: CO2 Transportation, including shipping and pipeline” at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.

The realm of CO2 transportation is undergoing continuous evolution in response to the global efforts to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, at the UKCCSRC’s Knowledge Exchange Conference, significant attention was dedicated to the topic of CO2 transportation, encompassing both shipping and pipeline methods. Three distinguished speakers shared their insights with the audience on various aspects, including planning CO2 transport infrastructure under uncertain conditions, predicting the behaviour of impure fluid CO2 to enhance cost-effectiveness, safety, and flow assurance in CCUS pipelines, and adopting an industrial approach to achieve a net-zero terminal and facilitate CO2 shipping within the Milford Haven Waterway.

The first presenter, Lihan Zhang, from The University of Edinburgh, devised a customized scenario tree designed for a CO2 capture project. This tree was then employed within a multi-stage stochastic programming model, providing valuable insights into decision-making across various phases of the project. This inventive approach considers potential project shutdown scenarios, such as those caused by financial constraints or equipment failures, as well as scenarios for project restoration, where operations can be resumed after a closure. Furthermore, the model operates under the assumption that CO2 capture levels in each scenario will eventually stabilize without requiring additional infrastructure development.

This long-term perspective on the consequences of early-stage decisions forms a fundamental part of the model’s framework. It encompasses multiple objectives, primarily aimed at minimizing infrastructure and transportation costs while penalizing insufficient transportation capacity. In instances where the penalty cost, set at £5 per ton of CO2, exceeds a predefined threshold, indicating a significant economic impact resulting from unmet transportation requirements, the model initiates infrastructure development in the initial project stage. This innovative approach adeptly balances the crucial objectives of cost reduction and meeting transportation demands, thereby contributing to the formulation of sustainable decision-making strategies for the project.

During his presentation, the second speaker, Richard Graham, from the University of Nottingham, introduced an advanced modelling approach for predicting the physical properties of impure CO2 based on first principles. This innovative methodology has the capability to autonomously generate highly accurate and reliable forecasts, thus reducing the need for input from experimental data and potentially decreasing reliance on physical experiments. Notably, the model successfully produced a practical equation of state directly, as exemplified by recent predictions concerning CO2-Argon mixtures. These predictions maintain their validity up to critical density levels and exhibit an impressive alignment with experimental findings across a wide spectrum of physical properties. Additionally, the speaker illustrated the extensibility of these predictive models to cover higher density ranges, accommodate various impurities, address multicomponent mixtures and encompass a more comprehensive range of physical properties.

During the final presentation, Simon Ames, from Dragon Energy, introduced the audience to a significant collaboration between Dragon Energy and RWE Pembroke power station. This collaboration is focused on maximizing decarbonization opportunities and achieving a net-zero terminal in the Milford Haven region. The project, known as the Multi Utility Service Transit (MUST), aims to leverage low-temperature heat from Pembroke Power Station’s cooling circuits to support LNG regasification processes. This strategic move is anticipated to result in a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions, potentially reaching 245,000 tonnes per year by displacing natural gas usage. Additionally, the project includes the extension of an existing jetty, which helps minimize shoreline impact and provides a dedicated berth for CO2 shipping operations. Furthermore, Dragon Energy aims to utilize this project to transport gaseous CO2 generated from industrial carbon capture processes to liquefaction and export facilities at Dragon LNG. This initiative has the potential to handle up to 5,000,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, making a significant contribution to emissions reduction efforts in the UK.

The importance of efficient CO2 transportation in achieving a net-zero goal and addressing the challenges of climate change cannot be overstated. This was a recurring theme reiterated by all the speakers during the parallel session, sparking extensive discussions on inventive strategies for achieving the most effective and efficient methods of CO2 transportation. Furthermore, a noteworthy trend observed throughout the session, as is customary at UKCCSRC conferences, was the collaboration and exchange of knowledge between industry experts and researchers. This collaboration remains a crucial step that will profoundly influence the success of CCS in the coming decade.

Mohadeseh Motie (Heriot-Watt University) shares her takeaways from “Parallel 1c: Whole Systems/Chain and CCS Integration” at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.

Industrial Scale Decarbonization of a Blast Furnace through Carbon Capture along with Clean Hydrogen Production – Abhijit Sarkar (Dastur Energy)

The global steel industry has long been recognized as one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, accounting for approximately 7-10% of the total global emissions. The traditional Blast Furnace-Basic Oxygen Furnace (BF-BOF) route of steel production has been a significant part of this problem. However, hope is on the horizon, thanks to the great presentation by Abhijit Sarkar, a representative of Dastur Company.

His presentation unveils an ingenious solution to reduce emissions from steel production:

Understanding the Challenge

The steel industry is crucial for modern civilization, providing the backbone for infrastructure, transportation, and countless other applications. However, the environmental cost is substantial, with the steelmaking process emitting enormous amounts of CO2. To address this challenge, decarbonizing the BF-BOF route is essential, but it has been hampered by the economic constraints of multipoint post-combustion capture and the absence of viable coal alternatives.

Dastur’s Novel Solution

Abhijit Sarkar’s presentation showcases a groundbreaking solution that integrates a gas conditioning unit, a carbon capture unit, and a combined heat and power (CHP) plant. This innovative approach is a game-changer for the industry.

  1. Increased CO2 Concentration: The gas conditioning unit boosts the CO2 concentration to over 30%, significantly improving the efficiency of carbon capture technology. This higher concentration enables the capture of more than 85% of the available CO2 from a single source while maintaining the lowest cost per ton of CO2 captured.
  2. Hydrogen Recovery: In addition to CO2 capture, this system allows for the recovery of hydrogen (H2) from the H2-rich fuel gas stream at an exceptionally low cost of less than $0.5 per kilogram of H2. This dual-purpose approach maximizes the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the system.
  3. Versatility in CO2 Capture Technologies: With CO2 concentrations exceeding 30%, a wide range of carbon capture technologies can be deployed, depending on factors such as CO2 purity requirements, net CO2 reduction targets, and the cost of electricity and steam. The flexibility allows for tailored solutions based on individual plant operations and regional factors.
  4. Circular Green Economy: Beyond the reduction of emissions, the deployment of carbon capture along with H2 recovery opens the door to a circular green economy. CO2 and H2 can be used in downstream industries, including aggregates, methanol-based chemicals, enhanced oil recovery, and more. This holistic approach not only reduces emissions but also contributes to sustainable practices in related sectors.

Government Support and Acceleration

The presentation emphasized the importance of government incentives and support in accelerating the decarbonization of the steel industry. These incentives can be instrumental in making the transition to more sustainable steel production economically viable. Abhijit Sarkar highlights how policy support and techno-economic evaluations of different options are essential elements in achieving a cleaner and greener steel industry.

Abhijit Sarkar’s presentation offers a promising vision for the future of steel production. By integrating a gas conditioning unit, carbon capture unit, and combined heat and power plant, Dastur has introduced a game-changing solution that addresses the steel industry’s colossal carbon emissions. This innovative approach not only reduces emissions but also offers the potential for hydrogen recovery and a circular green economy.

As the world strives to meet its climate goals, solutions like the one presented by Abhijit Sarkar and Dastur Company offer hope for a more sustainable and environmentally responsible steel industry. With the right policy support and economic considerations, the transformation of steel production is within reach, paving the way for a cleaner and greener future.

Life Cycle Environmental Assessment and Techno-Economic Analysis of Green and Low-carbon Ethanol Production from Low-value Tail Gas – Lingyun Zhang (University of Nottingham)

The author presented her research on comparing different ethanol production methods using lifecycle assessment at a recent conference on sustainable chemical technologies. Her work provides valuable insights on assessing the environmental impacts of emerging bio-based production routes.

The author’s lifecycle assessment of bio-fermented ethanol made from steel industry waste gas demonstrated this new LDG-ethanol route has advantages over conventional corn and coal-based ethanol. Cradle-to-gate analysis showed LDG-ethanol had the lowest overall environmental impact, thanks to its low inputs and mild operating conditions.

Specifically, LDG-ethanol performed best on fossil fuel depletion, eutrophication, and freshwater ecotoxicity indicators. Its main limitations were higher acidification and marine ecotoxicity impacts. The author identified electricity consumption as the most influential factor, responsible for over 80% of impacts.

Excitingly, the author explored scenarios to optimize LDG-ethanol’s environmental performance. With improved energy efficiency, its score dropped 17%. Switching to renewable hydropower electricity further reduced the impact by 68%. Her models predict as grids decarbonize, LDG-ethanol could maintain the lowest impact among ethanol routes.

For China’s steel industry, adopting LDG-ethanol over burning waste gas for power could reduce 5.6 million tonnes CO2 yearly by 2060. It could also generate 19.9-23.4 billion RMB in profit. This highlights the substantial environmental and economic benefits possible by converting waste gas into bioethanol.

Overall, the author’s lifecycle assessment provided robust evidence that bio-fermented LDG-ethanol is highly promising from a sustainability perspective. Her insights can guide emerging LDG-ethanol facilities globally to maximize benefits. The work should inspire other industries to explore waste gas valorization technologies to align with decarbonization goals.

Bottom-up CCS: capturing and storing the negative emissions value of bio-CO2 – Stuart Haszeldine (University of Edinburgh)

Professor Haszeldine’s presentation of his paper highlighted the urgent need to rapidly scale up carbon capture and storage (CCS) and negative emissions technologies (NETs) globally if we want to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals of limiting warming to 1.5-2°C.

The analysis showed we need to reduce CO2 emissions dramatically in the coming decades by both decreasing our fossil fuel emissions with CCS and removing previously emitted CO2 using NETs. The problem is that while CCS is the most mature solution, deployment rates are happening at only 1% of the pace needed.

Right now, there are only 15 operating CCS projects worldwide capturing just 60 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 annually. But to limit warming to 2°C, the IPCC estimates we need to be storing 6000 MtCO2 every year by 2050. Based on past growth trends, CCS is projected to reach only 10% of that target by 2050.

Making matters worse is that most NETs, like direct air capture or biomass energy with CCS, exist only at demonstration scale. Options like enhanced weathering or mineral carbonation could potentially ramp up in the next 10-20 years but face big legal and regulatory obstacles.

So, what needs to happen? Nations must urgently assess their carbon storage options and enact policies to incentivize rapid CCS deployment at industrial facilities, not just power plants. Governments also need to support building out CO2 transport infrastructure.

Simple solutions like certificates requiring fossil fuel producers to store an escalating fraction of their carbon emissions each year could create new markets for CO2 storage and drive growth. The good news is that commercially-proven options, like using captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, can help establish infrastructure while making money in the near term.

The stakes could not be higher. Decisions made in the next decade around CO2 storage will lock in climate risks for generations to come. CCS and NETs are critical to achieving Paris, but are profoundly lacking at scale. Policymakers need to wake up to the urgency and create conditions for sustainable businesses to invest and radically accelerate the transition. The narrow window to act is fast closing.

Roberto Loza (Cardiff University) and Rory Leslie (University of Edinburgh) shares their takeaways from “Parallel 1b: Storage” at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.

During the recent UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference in Sheffield (6-7 September 2023), there were a rich variety of talks discussing the challenges and solutions of different topics related to carbon capture and storage (CCS). Some of the talks ran in parallel to allow delegates to learn more about a specific topic and to keep up to date with the latest advances in the field. Storing CO2 in the subsurface is a crucial element of CCS. The storage session, chaired by Dr Roberto Loza, was very thought provoking and facilitated plenty of interesting discussions.

Dr Lee Hosking, from Brunel University London, opened the session talking about cement sheath bond integrity in CO2 injection wells. Analysing cement integrity in a mix of new, repurposed and legacy wells is challenging. The wells have varying cement quality and CO2 flow requires the consideration of unique properties. This is especially true in the UK, as the Track 1 clusters include new wells (East Coast Cluster, in the Endurance aquifer) and repurposed wells (HyNet, offshore Liverpool Bay).

Parameters that affect well integrity include chemical degradation, thermal loading (due to variations in CO2 and formation temperature) and thermal cycling (due to shutdowns or intermittent shipments). Dr Hosking presented various coupled hydro-mechanical-thermal numerical models aiming to predict cement failure in CO2 wells. Multiple simulation scenarios were considered.

The second presentation was given by Dr James Verdon, from the University of Bristol, in which he discussed the importance of monitoring induced seismicity caused by CO2 injection. Even though small seismicity may not cause damage, it can raise serious concerns to the public and damage a project’s reputation. One example is the closure of the Castor Natural Gas Storage Project 20 km off the coast of Spain after seismic activity was detected after gas injection. Many projects use a traffic light scheme (TLS): (i) Green, for low magnitude events with no concerns, (ii) Amber, for moderate magnitude events that require intervention, and (iii) Red, for high magnitude events when injection must stop, either temporarily or permanently (Fig. 2). Dr Verdon explained that the magnitude does not always increase gradually, and sudden jumps are common. Data suggests that high magnitude events can occur “out of the blue” regardless of the low magnitude of prior events. James’ results showed that the occurrence of seismic events is not purely random and sudden magnitude jumps very rarely exceed a magnitude increase of 1.5  Therefore a TLS with an expectation of magnitude jumps of 1.5 is a reasonable approach for minimizing the occurrence of high magnitude induced seismic events.

The closing presentation was delivered by Ian Watt, from the University of Edinburgh, talking about the potential to store CO2 through mineralisation in basaltic/mafic rocks. This storage method is being used at the innovative Carbfix project in Iceland. CO2 trapping occurs when acidic water saturated with CO2 interacts with minerals in basaltic rocks to precipitate carbonate minerals such as calcite and dolomite. Ian’s key questions were: (i) does the precipitation of minerals block fluid pathways in the rock? – which could reduce injectivity, permeability and the volume of accessible rock for mineralisation; or (ii) can injected CO2 induce fractures within the rock? – which could create more pathways for fluid flow and mineralisation.

To answer these questions, Ian developed a high-precision laboratory experiment which flowed CO2-saturated water through a mafic rock sample under reservoir conditions over a timescale of months. Ian shared computed tomography (CT) images showing the development of pore space and fractures over time. Subsequent Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) analyses confirmed the formation of new carbonate minerals (Fig. 3). The experiment shows that carbonate mineralisation and fracture formation can occur within weeks to months. This result supports CO2 mineralisation in basalts as a promising method to storing CO2 in locations where saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas fields are not present.

It is clear after these talks that CO2 storage is an interesting topic, bringing state-of-the-art research from multiple institutions. Having a conference like the one organised by the UKCCSRC is a great opportunity to bring researchers, industry professionals and government together to discuss challenges and opportunities. The support to ECRs is fantastic. The support allows us to be part of the community implementing CCS for Net Zero. We are looking forward to the upcoming conference in March 2024.

Billy Davies and Mike Gorbounov (both from Brunel University London) shares their takeaways from “Parallel 1a: Capture” at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.

Researchers like Leila Moura, Chunfei Wu and Hyungwoong Ahn are making significant strides in the development of CO2 capture technologies. These innovative approaches aim to address critical challenges related to energy efficiency, process optimisation and environmental sustainability. In this blog post, we delve into their ground-breaking work and explore the potential impact of their research on various industries.

First, Dr Leila Moura discussed her work on developing headspace gas chromatography (HS-GC), which ensures accurate and time-efficient screening. Gas separation is an inherent part of CCS. She described high-throughput screening methods developed for liquid and solid sorbents based on their gas uptake.

The key challenge in gas separation is achieving optimal uptake capacity while minimising the time required for the process. This involves measuring solubility and uptake capacity accurately, which often requires specialised equipment. Dr Moura’s research provides a versatile solution that can be applied to both adsorption and absorption processes. Her results consistently fall within the range published in the literature, demonstrating the reliability of this methodology. However, this process still faces limitations, such as equilibration time, absorption kinetics and the need for precise temperature control. Despite these challenges, the simplicity and efficiency of her method make it a promising tool in gas separation studies.

Next up was Dr Chunfei Wu discussing his work on CaO-Based Materials for Efficient CO2 Capture and Utilisation. This work addresses several challenges associated with traditional CO2 capture methods. Conventional CO2 capture technologies (such as amine scrubbing) often require high energy input and suffer from sorbent degradation and high-temperature requirements. Dr Wu proposes an innovative approach called Integrated carbon capture and utilisation (ICCU), which combines CO2 capture and utilisation in a single reactor, eliminating additional energy requirements and reducing corrosion issues.

To achieve this, dual-functionalised materials are crucial, allowing for efficient CO2 capture and subsequent utilisation. Key challenges within this research are the mixing of sorbent and catalyst, the integration of a reducing agent (such as H2 or CH4) as well as the obstacle of long reaction times.

Dr Wu also explores chemical looping combustion as an alternative method for CCU. The use of marble stone in ICCU-RWGS (Integrated CCU with Reverse Water Gas Shift) shows high capacity and cyclic stability, thus, offering another avenue for sustainable CO2 management.

Finally, Dr Hyungwoong Ahn’s presented his work on PSA-SPUR, an advanced adsorption process for heavy component recovery (CO2 in the case of post-combustion CCS) and its application in carbon capture on-board ships.

One significant benefit of the PSA-SPUR configuration is lower power consumption compared to the conventional amine scrubbing method. Particularly effective for high concentrations of CO2, the approach proposed by Dr Anh doesn’t require low desorption pressures and can achieve purities exceeding 99%. As we strive to reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainability, innovations like PSA-SPUR play a crucial role in achieving these goals.

The presentations not only provided insight to researchers within the field but also to other key stakeholders outlining the recent technological advancements facilitating large-scale deployment of CCS.

Shervan Babamohammadi and Ben Petrovic (both from Brunel University London) shares their takeaways from Plenary Session 1 at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.

As we write this blog, the UK is experiencing an unusual heatwave lingering from the extreme climate changes. While this sunny weather might be a welcome respite, we must not forget the scale of the global fight against climate change. The UK is poised to become a leader in this regard and remains dedicated to achieving the legislated net-zero emissions, addressing the challenges of decarbonisation, and accelerating progress in carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The first full week of September 2023, at the University of Sheffield, approximately 120 delegates from across the UK and Europe gathered at the first UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference. This forum covering each aspect of the CCS/CCUS value-chain, including capture, storage, transportation, regulation/legislation and investment. The first day kicked off with an opening address by Jon Gibbins, UKCCSRC Director, followed by Mohamed Pourkashanian, Head of the Energy Institute at University of Sheffield, highlighting the varied work planned for the Translational Energy Research Centre (TERC).

Mark Ellis-Jones from the Environment Agency kicked off the first plenary session with a presentation providing valuable insights into the role of regulation at both the local and national levels in achieving net-zero emissions. He stressed the importance of collaboration and a multi-faceted approach to address the challenges of transitioning to a sustainable, low-carbon future.

Effective regulation, according to Mark, is fundamental in achieving net-zero emissions. The EA focuses on four key areas: permitting and regulation (of the capture elements, abstraction licences, etc.), spatial planning (as a statutory consultee in planning, DCO), sustainable development (that delivers for the environment, the economy, and people), and emissions trading (as the administrator). Mark then elucidated the three areas of importance which drive their decision-making process: green tape not red tape – rethinking the regulation to accelerate capacity/capabilities providing new tech with public licence; climate impacts – to build resilience into infrastructure; and the local environment – to provide tailored solutions maximising potential collaborations.

He highlighted the role of “innovation” in environmental impact assessment and decision-making, showcasing a groundbreaking proof of concept that utilises digital twin technology. This innovative approach demonstrates how technology can (in the future) aid in assessing environmental impacts and guiding regulatory decisions. Achieving a sustainable, low-carbon future requires a shared commitment from all stakeholders, and Mark’s insights offer a valuable roadmap toward that goal.

Following Mark’s speech, Bryony Livesey, from the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge (IDC) at UKRI, delivered an insightful presentation highlighting the challenges the IDC faces. Tackling industrial emissions requires a multifaceted and collaborative approach, including changes in fuel supplies, carbon capture and storage (CCS), electrification and hydrogen production.

The IDC sets out to make sense of all of this and, with £210 million provided by the UKRI matched with £261 million from industry, its aspirations to address emissions in energy-intensive sectors such as cement, iron and steel, chemicals and refineries seem more than realistic. The program primarily focuses on engineering designs for CCS and hydrogen production and distribution projects. These projects aim to maximise the value of new infrastructure whilst reducing emissions. Notable examples include Teesside, a region known for natural collaboration among industries, and the Black Country, a challenging area with numerous energy-intensive businesses integrated into residential areas. These regions exemplify the diverse challenges faced in achieving decarbonisation.

Bryony emphasised the importance of considering social impacts, job creation and air quality when developing decarbonisation plans and prioritising collaboration over competition. By addressing these factors, the clusters are working towards becoming the world’s first net-zero industrial clusters by 2040.

The final session saw Andrew Cavanagh, a senior researcher at the University of Edinburgh with over 20 years’ experience in CO2 storage analysis, provide food-for-thought on the potential for slow storage progress to undermine net zero ambitions. In his words, the rate of storage provisions needs to be increased by a factor of 4 (2 by 2030, 2 more by 2040) if we have a chance of reaching net zero by 2050. The UK has an order of magnitude less funding for similar ambitions of storage compared to the EU (20B for 30Mtpa vs 250B for 40Mtpa). What’s clear is that, historically, big projects are delivered late and over budget, a doubling of effort with regards to net zero would be a wise choice to ensure these projects set a new precedent. Andrew highlighted that without significant drive to increase storage capacity, there may be no credible way to net zero or the negative emissions required by 2100.

In conclusion, the first plenary session of the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference provided a comprehensive overview of the critical elements required to enable net zero, address industrial challenges and bridge the gaps in carbon capture and storage. The speakers’ insights and expertise highlighted the urgency and complexity of the task at hand, while also emphasising the importance of collaborative efforts and innovative solutions to pave the way towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. The UK and its research communities continue to be a beacon of hope and knowledge in the ongoing battle against climate change, despite the pleasant heatwave in the UK now lasting longer than a cup of tea!

Ibrahim Kadafur (Heriot Watt University) shares his takeaway from the Welcome and Opening Keynote talks at the UKCCSRC Knowledge Exchange Conference 2023.


In a pivotal gathering of minds, the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Community Network+ (UKCCSRC) Knowledge Exchange Conference took place from September 6th to 7th, 2023, at the esteemed University of Sheffield. This two-day conference brought together a diverse assembly of thought leaders, researchers, industry experts and government representatives, all with a shared commitment to addressing one of the most pressing challenges of our time: mitigating carbon emissions.

The conference was marked by enlightening presentations and vibrant discussions, revolving around critical facets of CCS, including carbon capture technologies, transportation and storage solutions, policy frameworks and a visionary glimpse into the future of CCS.

The welcome was delivered by Jon Gibbins, UKCCSRC Director and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Sheffield. Jon then introduced Mohamed Pourkashanian the Head of Energy Institute, also from the University of Sheffield.

In his welcome note, Prof Pourkashanian informed the attendees about the University of Sheffield having four institutions, the Energy Institute being one of them, which captures a ton of CO2 every day using the solvent method. Mohamed also talks about other methods of CO2 capture that the institution is currently researching which include DAC, BECCS, CO2 Capture Rotating Packed Bed and supercritical CO2 Heat Exchanger.

Mohamed Pourkashanian welcoming everyone to the conference and talking about the Energy Institute

Afterwards, a keynote speech was delivered by Ruqaiyah Patel, the Head of Decarbonising Industry and the Environment at EPSRC, part of UKRI. Ruqaiyah talked about the Government’s commitment towards net zero and beyond, through the provision of funds to individuals and research institutions. Ruqaiyah also stressed some of the objectives of UKRI-EPSRC which include building a green future, accelerating a green economy, tackling the last 20% of emissions, powering UK science and property, investing in people, places, ideas etc.

Ruqaiyah Patel delivering the opening keynote

A Platform for Knowledge Exchange

The conference served as a vibrant platform for knowledge exchange, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of carbon capture and storage. Attendees delved into the latest advancements and innovations, sharing their expertise and insights to collectively chart a path toward a sustainable and decarbonized future.

Key Themes and Highlights

Carbon Capture Technologies:

Leading experts from academia and industry unveiled groundbreaking advancements in carbon capture technologies. Innovations ranged from novel solvents and materials to more efficient capture processes. One standout presentation introduced a cutting-edge modular carbon capture system with the potential to revolutionize emissions reduction in various industries.

Transportation and Storage Solutions:

Delegates explored the intricacies of transporting and storing captured carbon. Presentations highlighted the expansion of CO2 transportation infrastructure, such as pipelines and shipping technologies. Additionally, discussions emphasized the importance of identifying secure geological formations for long-term carbon storage.

Policy Frameworks:

Government representatives engaged in constructive dialogues regarding policy frameworks and incentives to drive CCS adoption. Discussions centred on creating a conducive regulatory environment, incentivizing industry participation and fostering international collaboration in CCS research and development.

The Future of CCS:

The conference concluded with a visionary look into the future of CCS. Thought leaders outlined ambitious projects and initiatives aimed at scaling up CCS efforts to tackle global emissions effectively. Attendees left with a sense of optimism, recognizing that CCS holds immense potential as a key component of the transition to a sustainable energy landscape.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

One of the most significant takeaways from the conference was the importance of cross-sector collaboration. CCS is a complex challenge that necessitates the cooperation of academia, industry and government to reach its full potential. The conference provided a fertile ground for forging partnerships and synergies that will drive meaningful progress in CCS.

A Call to Action

As the conference ended, it left attendees with a resounding call to action. The imperative to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change has never been more urgent. The insights gained from the Conference have illuminated a path forward, where collaboration and innovation will be our greatest allies in achieving a sustainable, decarbonized future.

In Conclusion

The Knowledge Exchange Conference was an unequivocal success. It brought together the brightest minds in the field, fostering cross-sectoral collaboration and inspiring a collective commitment to address the challenges of CCS. As we move forward, armed with newfound knowledge and a shared sense of purpose, we are one step closer to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

Photo of 3 students smiling at the camera, standing on grass with a university college behind them

Molly James, Laurent Chan and Millicent Sutton (all doing the MSc Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford) attended our Spring 2023 Conference in Cardiff. Molly and Laurent came in person, and Millicent online. Jen Roberts (UKCCSRC Deputy Director and Early Career Researcher lead) was curious to hear what attracted them to the conference, how they found the experience and how best to support future students to come and be part of the UKCCSRC community.

How did you find out about the conference and why did you come along?

Molly: All three of us found out through our dissertation supervisor, Dr Emily Cox, who works on public perceptions of carbon capture and storage. The topic of the conference – geographically dispersed areas – was particularly relevant to my dissertation idea, so it was a great experience to get familiarised with the CCS landscape.

Laurent: I wanted to learn more about the current state of CCS in the UK. The conference was an excellent opportunity for me to hear the most up-to-date research on CCS and to network with industry professionals.

What did you find particularly valuable or surprising about coming along to the conference?

Molly: I was surprised about the amount happening in academia and industry, in particular how advanced and complex the landscape is already. It was enlightening to meet people working on different aspects and everyone was really welcoming and friendly. The emphasis seemed to be around government policy comparative to UK, Europe, US and China. I learnt a lot about different stakeholders and the growth of this industry. As our MSc projects are on onshore storage, we were (somewhat naively) surprised about the complete absence of onshore storage in the UK, and the talk of extensive pipelines, trucks and rail for dispersed areas, but it was great for our project to be contextualised in the broader landscape.

Laurent: Attending this conference felt like great timing as the UK government had recently made significant progress in deploying CCS. Stepping out of academia and seeing things being put from theory into practice was incredibly insightful.

Millicent: I agree.  Also, I was very surprised by how much traction has been gained by the UK CCS industry.  Before the conference, I was under the impression that it was a more latent/nascent industry. I was shocked that there was no more detailed consideration of justice concerns, research into how these CCS plants will affect communities and alter economic landscapes in specific locations i.e. the jobs market.

Photo of 3 students smiling at the camera, standing on grass with a university college behind them

Were there particular aspects to the conference that enabled you to come along?

Molly: The conference was outside of the teaching semester and so we had more time to attend. It was also free to attend and that was a great incentive for us because, as Masters students, there is less funding available. I decided to attend in person because I’m from Cardiff so that was great serendipity.

Millicent: I agree. The conference taking place outside of term time allowed me to attend and there being no registration fee was a great incentive due to funding constraints. Conferences that are free are more accessible to earlier career attendees.

Was it your first conference? How was the experience for you?

Molly: For me and Laurent, it was our first scientific conference – Millicent had been to a conference before. I was apprehensive when I arrived about being new to the field but it was good: there was a lovely social space, good questions asked and everyone was friendly.

Laurent: I found it enlightening to meet the diverse range of experts from various backgrounds in the CCS field. Overall, I felt that the conference struck a good balance between presentations on CCS policy, planned projects in industry and new findings from academia. Having the social space and catering after each presentation gave us breathing room and the chance to network and meet other people.

What would you advise other students thinking about going along to conferences?

Molly: I found it an incredibly valuable experience at the beginning of my research journey to get familiarised with the landscape, industry and different areas of research. I’m looking forward to attending the next one when further into my Masters dissertation, in order to network and discuss with people researching in different areas or working in policy.

Laurent: This conference was especially helpful for me in trying to refine the research pathway for my Masters dissertation. Attending this conference has not only furthered my understanding on recent developments in research and industry, but it has also allowed me to discuss opinions and research interests with experts in the CCS field. As someone who has not attended a scientific conference before, I would advise other students who are considering going to conferences to have some form of name card to give to other attendees during networking sessions, especially one that has a QR code to save on printing. I had a great time at the conference and it offered so much more than reading published papers. I would definitely attend subsequent UKCCSRC conferences in the future.

Millicent:  I have so many more questions after attending the conference, which, I think, is a good starting point for my Masters dissertation project! One thing I thought about afterwards is how we don’t really get taught how to do academic networking. At undergraduate level, you are taught material and ways of thinking more than you are taught to network and make contacts that can enable further research.

David Whitworth (Merlin Energy Resources Ltd.), Shervan Babamohammadi (Brunel University London), Sara Elmarghni (University of Wolverhampton) and Xiaoya Zhu (University of Nottingham) share their takeaways from Plenary session 2 “Challenges and technical solutions” at the UKCCSRC Spring 2023 Conference on “CCS from geographically dispersed industries”.

Focusing on some of the technical challenges associated with scaling up CCS across the UK, with a particular focus on Wales’ Net Zero efforts, this session immediately preceded the closing keynote speech and was attended by the entire cohort of delegates.

The session opened with an introduction from the Chair, Professor Stuart Haszeldine (University of Edinburgh), who introduced the session title and the four speakers. Ben Burggraaf, CEO of Net Zero Industry Wales, began the discussion by introducing the nascent organisation of which he is now at the helm. Net Zero Industry Wales (NZIW) was formed by the Welsh Government in 2022 to bring structure to the region’s net zero ambitions. NZIW oversees the South West Industrial Cluster (SWIC) decarbonisation efforts, in order to maximise efficiency and collaboration during the transition. NZIW’s overall aim is to “make Wales the country of choice for sustainable investment”, with Ben stressing the “significant role” that would be played by CCUS.

Dr Abby Samson (University of Sheffield) then spoke about Direct Air Carbon Capture & Storage (DACCS), outlining the numerous different techniques currently being developed both at Sheffield and across the UK and Europe, for what is ostensibly a versatile Negative Emissions Technology (NET). Abby highlighted that only 36 sites are truly dispersed, and some 199 sites emit >50kt of CO2 per annum.

It was clear from the ensuing discussion points that applications for DACCS are multifaceted, and can potentially be used in conjunction with other solutions such as natural gas, wind farms and solar installations. DACCS also represents a potentially profitable way of acquiring food-grade CO2 at a fraction of its current cost.

Lee Mills (joined by colleague Karl Shepherd) was next to present, introducing and outlining the work of Natural Resources Wales (NRW). NRW, formed in 2013, assumed the responsibilities of the Countryside Council, Forestry Commission and Environment Agency within Wales, as well as fulfilling some governmental obligations – with a budget of £180 million. The NRW is active in advising, regulating, and permitting within the Energy Transition sector, including mobilising responses to over 9000 environmental incidents a year.

After the presentations had concluded, the Chair opened the session to questions from the audience. Ben’s assertion that there is no reliable geological storage opportunity local to the SWIC was challenged by some of the more subsurface-oriented delegates, however he stressed the need for immediacy, with shipping likely offering the most flexible and cost-effective mode of transportation away from the Cluster, to a permanent storage site elsewhere. One question from the audience was around the possibility of repurposing ships that bring gas to Wales to take away captured CO2, however it was quickly established by Professor Haszeldine and others that the pressure-temperature requirements of supercritical (dense phase) CO2 during transport made this an impossible task.

Abby was quizzed on the feasibility of using DACCS offshore in conjunction with fossil fuel-producing facilities, and whether there were issues with co-location. Discussion turned once again to immediacy: it was acknowledged that DACCS represents a last-resort with regard to emissions abatement, and other decarbonisation strategies should come before DACCS with regard to urgency of deployment.

The session’s closing discussion focused mainly on the need for early and efficient public/stakeholder engagement about the realities of decarbonisation programmes, and also reinforced the need to act now. A general consensus was that “the perfect should not be the enemy of the good” when it comes to decarbonisation in geographically dispersed areas, where rapid deployment of all available techniques should be explored and supported.