It is important that CCS research doesn’t only focus on advancing the technology itself and instead encompasses all the factors that can influence the deployment of CCS at scale. One of these factors is the potential societal response to CCS, particularly in areas local to CO2 storage sites.

In a recent paper, titled “Understanding key elements in establishing a social license for CCS: An empirical approach” researchers have looked at this very issue by speaking to residents in both Lancashire and Teesside. These locations were selected so researchers could map social responses in areas which had: i) recently experienced high profile planning applications for a new energy development (hydraulic fracturing, ‘fracking’, for shale gas exploration), but no CCS proposals (Lancashire) and ii) CCS development activity which was seeking to establish an industrial CCS cluster, but where fracking was unlikely to be pursued in the near term (Teesside). Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas exploration was chosen as a potentially analogous technology from which lessons could be learnt for CO2 storage because of comparable operational processes within the subsurface (drilling, injection and monitoring) and a link to fossil energy use.

The paper sought to:

  • explore the wider social context for CO2 storage in the UK;
  • assess potential social responses to subsurface injection and site monitoring approaches;
  • identify significant factors in establishing a social license in the context of CCS and in particular offshore CO2 storage in the UK.

In conclusion, the paper outlines eight principles which may help support a social license for CCS. Clair Gough, corresponding author of the paper said “Based on the ideas that CCS is potentially good for securing jobs and climate mitigation, the foundations on which to build a social license to operate for CCS seem to be in place, but maintaining this support is dependent on how the social, industrial and political landscape evolves.”

 

Abstract:

This paper presents results of empirical research with the broad aim of exploring societal responses to CO2 storage, framed around the concept of social license to operate (SLO). We describe a mixed method approach incorporating stakeholder interviews and focus groups deployed in two case study locations in the UK. The approach helps us to build up an understanding of the social context in which Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will be introduced, in terms of the specific local conditions and with reference to the influence of local experiences of other technologies (such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), for example). This understanding is then used to guide further empirical research, from which we assess the extent to which an SLO for CCS is emerging. Results show that perceptions of trust and confidence in key institutions to safely manage projects are highly dependent not just on the track record of the organisations but are strongly influenced by past experiences with different technologies. While the indications for achieving an SLO for CCS are currently positive, consolidating and maintaining that support depends on the evolving social, industrial and political landscape.

 

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