Written by Mike Edwards, UKCCSRC Strategy and Business Development Manager
Let’s begin with a bit of background ….. the trip was a result of a conversation in a small French restaurant in Edinburgh with between UKCCSRC and Peter Cook from CO2CRC. We co-funded Peter's trip to the UK in September 2013 to come to speak at our bi-annual meeting in Nottingham and then tour key academic centres in the UK. As it became clear that Australia was to be named as a collaboration country for at least some of CCS in the EU's Horizon 2020 and Peter further clarified forward plans and objectives for the Otway storage project (which CO2CRC leads on), quick action was undertaken. The Centre reacted strategically and agreed to undertake a storage mission to Australia for six Centre members.
The obvious event around which to plan the trip was the CO2CRC Annual Symposium on 19th – 20th November 2013 (this year in Tasmania, not too far from Melbourne where the bulk of CO2CRC's researchers are based). Trevor Drage (University of Nottingham and UKCCSRC Capture Group Leader) was already scheduled to speak at this meeting as a representative of UKCCSRC.
The CO2CRC machinery really sprung into action to help facilitate this mission. At this stage, it was mainly David Hilditch (Commercial Manager), Matthias Raab (Storage Programme Manager & Otway Project Director) and Tony Steeper (Communications and Media Adviser) as well as of Course Peter Cook and Richard Aldous (Chief Executive Officer).
Following a peer-reviewed call for expressions of interest on storage collaboration with Australia (with a focus on Otway and H2020), a group was selected comprising Doug Angus (Leeds), Stuart Gilfillan (Edinburgh), Sam Krevor (Imperial), Alex Maskell (Cambridge), Gillian Pickup (Heriot-Watt), Ceri Vincent (BGS) and myself.
We visited Otway for two days during the week prior to the symposium to better understand the technical details of the Otway site and work completed, ongoing and planned (near- and long-term) and to meet with the main Otway team and learn, share, and scope out a clear way forward,. We were warmly received by, amongst others, Matthias, Rajindar Singh (Otway Operations), Max Watson (Project Development), and Josie McInerney (Community) as well as the LIAG group visiting from Hanover (some of whom we knew from existing German connections). It was an extremely informative visit to the site with much of the discussion getting down to the nuts and bolts which was critical for our understanding of the technical scope and limits (or opportunities - glass half full) for UK collaboration in the forthcoming Otway plans. These ideas were hatched and hammered out over the next week.
This began with a strategic plan change where Matthias Raab invited us to his pre-CO2CRC Symposium BBQ in North Melbourne. Two of us were able attend and in addition to getting to better know the LIAG group, this was a good opportunity to get to know other CO2CRC members (e.g. Lincoln Patterson also of CSIRO), and two scientists from TNO’s (the Netherlands' Applied Science Institute) CCS group, also bound for Tasmania. A European focus on Otway BBQ in Oz!
This then set the stage for Tasmania. Day One consisted of ‘internal’ workshops to which we were generously invited. LIAG and TNO were presenting some of their existing collaboration results or plans on Otway and this gave further insight into the levels of technical planning needed and opportunities going forward for UK ambitions.
At the symposium itself, there were many presentations showcasing a huge amount of, mostly Australian, innovation in storage, capture and public engagement. Against this backdrop, the main UK Storage group developed a range of collaborative plans that range from individual scientific exchanges to small pieces of work on existing datasets to big ideas on H2020 and other funding schemes over the next few years. From the Capture side, Trevor Drage was very impressed with the huge amount of adsorbent and membrane work going on in Australia and he saw a lot of possible collaborations in this area but he’ll elaborate on that in his own blog report coming up next week.
The fact that the CO2CRC are interested in UK ambitions was reflected in the UKCCSRC being invited to sit at the main table amongst the board members and funders and senior CO2CRC members at main Symposium dinner.
The final day saw a range of discussions with various people and then a pleasant farewell dinner amongst the UK mission and the core CO2CRC players. The mission then split into smaller groups on subsequent days who went on to meet with storage and capture scientists in Melbourne, with CarbonNet, CSIRO and some flew on to South Korea to meet with the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources – KIGAM some of whom we had met on the October South Korea mission (see my blog from that trip).
Looking back on the Australia trip, we are really pleased to say that we achieved all our objectives and maybe much more! Looking forward, there are a range of possible actions and initiatives and once the agreements on these actions become firmer, we can talk about them more fully. In the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out more, get in touch with the Centre and watch this space!