Reporting from the IEAGHG CCS Summer School 2015 - Perth, Australia

This blog was written by Karl McAlinden, Weparn Julian Tay and Kate Stechly, who are PhD students at the University of Nottingham, Imperial College London and University of Sheffield, respectively and received travel funding by the UKCCSRC to attend the 9th IEAGHG CCS Summer School in Australia.


Introduction

Three of us were very lucky to be selected among other thirty participants from all over the world to attend the 9th IEAGHG CCS Summer School at University of Western Australia (UWA) in Perth in December 2015. Summer School in the middle of December sounds a bit crazy, however during this time Australia is preparing for Christmas holidays sunbathing, because the temperature at that time is about 30°C over there. All of us brought good memories. Definitively it was a remarkable experience to see a Santa in shorts and hearing Christmas carols such as ‘Jingle bells’ in this hot and sunny weather.

The summer school is a week long programme with presentations and group activities led by academics and industry experts in the field of CCS. This event brings together people with different backgrounds, such as engineering, geology, socio-economics etc. with the main focus on CCS. The presentations topics include technical information on various capture technologies, storage site selection, capacity monitoring and modelling, wellbore integrity and transport; as well as other issues such as regulations, health and safety, and public communication.

The summer school started on Sunday evening with the Welcome Reception and Ice Breaker led by Brian Allison from DECC, which gave us great opportunity to get to know each other.


Presentations (Policy)

CCS Summer School started with keynote speech from the Western Australian Minister Bill Marmion, outlining the importance of this event, as well as, the integrated policy knowledge and technical capabilities of young researchers for the technologies’ future development. With the IEAGHG playing an increasingly important role in these aspects, their Technical Director, Tim Dixon, gave a breakdown of the programmes goals and activities, as well as the role it plays in being together research networks and collaborating with other CCS entities internationally. Tim later gave a rundown of the international legal and regulatory background, political and GHG emissions reductions developments, which was particularly relevant with the events that were currently taking place at COP21. Additionally, later in the week he introduced the perspectives of international NGOs on the role of CCS in climate mitigation and the challenges CCS faces against competing with other low-carbon technologies. Very relevant topics if CCS is to be advanced.

The trend of increasing international CCS activity was also pointed out by Chris Consoli from the Global CCS Institute, who gave a breakdown of the current and projected CCS projects globally, estimations for cost reductions and storage capabilities, as well as policy indicators. The key takeaway from Chris’ presentation was that if CCS is to play a role in an increasing low-carbon future, strong leadership and policy support is needed. On a more theoretical basis, an interesting and increasingly important research area of CCS was presented by Jürgen-Friedrich Hake from the Julich Forschungszentrum Institute of Clean Energy Research. Focusing on the emergence of CCS as a tool of mitigation and its increasing role in the international sphere, Jürgen pointed out the political, policy, financial and social steps needed to motivate and incentive CCS deployment. With the role of international projects, demonstrations playing and important role in the future of CCS, a key message was to manage the gap between expectations and reality, as well as practical steps to help bridge these aspects and accelerate deployment.

At the domestic level, through a presentation from Bruce Wilson from Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; students learned of the Australian Government’s national CCS policy. With increasing global energy consumption, demands for energy and Australia’s abundance of fossil fuel resources, as well as its commitment to greenhouse gas reductions, CCS is an important technological option to support, which has been reflected not only in its national efforts but its international collaborations. While such government aspirations often seem lofty and idealistic, Linda Stalker from CSIRO provided background to Australian CCS hubs and clusters and Martin Burke from the Western Australia Department of Mines and Petroleum introduced the efforts made in that area on public engagement and communications, proving that such claims are being backed by concrete actions being taken both on the technical and social developments of CCS in Australia. With such a broad range of social issues addressed, it is encouraging to see not only CCS making technical research advancements but also advancement in the direction and scope of its social research.


Carbon Storage

Several presentations on carbon storage were presented throughout the week. John Kaldi from University of Adelaide gave a presentation on the different reservoir rock types, seals and trapping mechanisms of carbon storage. He explained the integrity of different sealing methods and the definition of storage capacities. I enjoyed his presentation especially coming from an engineering background. Simon O’Brien from Shell gave a presentation on the wellbore integrity, he mentioned different types of wells including pressure relief well, water production well, monitoring well, injection well. It is really intriguing to know that preparation of a new well may cost up 40 million dollars depending on the site and the depth of the well! He also gave details on the CCS Quest Project in Canada which he is currently working on. Tess Dance from CSIRO talked about using models to understand carbon storage, she mentioned about different grid size models when determining the geology structures and the assumptions made during the modelling process. Linda Stalker, chief scientist of NGL talked about onshore & off-shore monitoring, stated that it is often difficult differentiating between background noise and signal (small signal to noise) ratio. She also pointed out that vigorous and careful monitoring of the injection wells is essential to prevent unintended migrations of CO2. She also gave a talk about CCS hubs and clusters using the South West Hub CCS project and Gorgon Project as examples.


Carbon Capture & Transport

The carbon capture presentations focused on introducing the three main types of carbon capture technologies – Pre and Post Combustion capture and Oxyfuel Combustion capture. All of the three technologies offer the option of retrofitting the existing plants hence making CCS more viable compared to renewables while reducing the overall CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. The Callide Oxyfuel project in Queensland Australia was used as an example for Oxyfuel capture. Several pre and post combustion methods were also discussed and these include solvent capture, Sorbent Enhanced Water Gas Shift (SEWGS), Membranes Integrated Coal Gasification Fuel Cell. Dianne Wiley from University of New South Wales gave a presentation on CO2 transport and the economic assessment of CCS. This helped us appreciate the economic and financial requirements for CCS projects to be successful.


Carbon Utilisation

Steve Whittaker from CSIRO gave a presentation on Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and used an example from Weyburn Field located in the US to show the possibility of using EOR being part of the CCS chain.  I found Steve’s talk particularly enlightening and valuable, especially considering the fact that my own work finds its applicability mainly in the EOR-CCS chain. In Martin Oettinger’s presentation, he stated that there are other industrial usages for anthropogenic CO2 and these include the Steel and metal industry, water treatment, food and beverage industries etc. However, majority of the anthropogenic CO2 are still being used for CO2 storage purpose. 


Health and Safety and Environmental Impact

Two presentations about health and safety risk, risk assessment and mitigation were given by Keith Spence and Simon O’Brien. The presentations showed the risk management cycle in which details the approach of assessing risks and methods to mitigating the associated risks. It also mentioned the accidents happened in the past related to CO2 as examples as consequences to poor risk management. Safety is definitely utmost important in CCS. Jennifer Roberts from University of Strathclyde gave a presentation on the Environmental Impacts of CO2 storage from a geological point of view.

Presentation and group work

The participants were divided into groups of six with two mentors allocated (the presenters) in each group. We were all given different questions regarding CCS and we had to prepare a 15 minutes presentation followed by 15 minutes of grilling Q&A session by the expert panel. We felt this was a good opportunity to apply the knowledge we learnt during the week as well as having in-depth discussions about different topics of CCS. The mentors were really helpful and great in supporting us throughout the entire week.


Field Trip

After two days of intensive presentations, a field trip was scheduled on Wednesday in which we went to a leading research facility, the National Geosequestration Laboratory, part of the Australian Resources Research Centre, ARRC. The ARRC is a research centre which accommodates research students and staff from several research institutes including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Curtin University, University of Western Australia, Australian National Measurement Institute, CO2CRC and other research organisations. Linda Stalker led the session by giving a presentation on the background of the South West Hub project which it is a potential on-shore CCS project in Western Australia. We then had a tour around the laboratories where we looked at some mobile containerised laboratories for geophysical and geochemical equipment and monitoring equipment which allow the geologists to undertake both on-shore and off shore field research. We were then brought to another laboratory with many advanced chromatography and spectroscopy equipment for rocks characterization experiments. We also looked at a CT scanner and a Micro CT scanner for carrying out different scales of 3D core flooding and imaging experiments.  After the lab visit, we travelled to the South West Hub located in Harvey where it is famous for its beef and orange juice. The site at Harvey is the South West CO2 Geosequestration Hub that consists of four CO2 injection sites. We were first given an overview on the South West Hub Project and a presentation on seismic monitoring and characterization. We then went to injection site 4 where we saw an injection well alongside with a very sophisticated piece of seismic monitoring device. The sub-surface monitoring device gathers seismic data via some geophones buried underground and the data are transferred via optical fibre cables to the main monitoring device. After the field trip, we were given an opportunity to relax by visiting a beer brewery named the Old Coast Road where it offers several kinds of own brewed beers. One of the speakers, Martin Oettinger who is an Australian football fanatic, introduced us to the Australia football. Everyone enjoyed their beers and a few of us had a ‘kick about’ time during the visit at the brewery. It was definite a good time to enjoy the wonderful and sunny Australian weather.


Summary

While scientifically and technically comprehensive, the CCS summer school covered a broad range of policy and social issues that made it a truly interdisciplinary meeting of future CCS professionals. With the topics of many CCS events often leaning heavily towards more technical issues, and justifiable so considering the technologies current stage of development, it was refreshing to see that international, policy and social issues had worked its way into the summer school’s programme.

From the outset, the level of, support for and from the local hosts was clear through the keynote speech from the Western Australian Minister Bill Marmion and the wide range of institutions, experts and mentors from the Australian CCS community. With this year being the ninth consecutive year of the school, it was clear that considerable time, effort and resources had been put into the organization of the weeklong event, with success, having been built on the experience from previous years to make it an excellent, although demanding, programme of events. Special thanks should be given to Sian Twinning, for her role in the organization and for being available and eager to help both online and in person in the run up and during the entire week.

The IEAGHG CCS summer school is an amazing experience to be part of the CCS community combining people from different background, therefore an excellent opportunity for networking. It is an exceptional opportunity to meet great people, both from academia and industry, who are truly involved what they are doing. There is so much motivation, ambition, determination, passion, engagement. Moreover, everyone is very keen on sharing knowledge and experience with others. Also, this Summer School helps to develop the teamwork abilities, defines your role in the group. It is a place for so many discussions, brain storms and creativity. Moreover, it is an opportunity to meet other PhD students and exchange experiences during PhD research. You can realize that your research might be employed in real life, that there is an elite of people who are working on this subject, that there is a sense. Truly unique experience, hence we recommend others to apply for this in the time to come.

Next, the 10th IEAGHG CCS Summer School will be held at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in July this year. The applications will be accepted till the 29 January 2016. More details can be found here.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank IEAGHG for organizing this wonderful CCS summer school, all the presenters and participants for making this summer school a success and last but not least a big thank you to UKCCSRC for the financial support to us.
 

Author(s): 
K. J. McAlinden