Samira Garcia Freites: My experience in the 2017 IEAGHG CCS Summer School

Samira Garcia Freites – PhD Researcher at Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in the University of Manchester 

I can describe my experience in this year’s IEAGHG CCS Summer School as educational, intense and fun.

It was very educational and satisfactory to learn from CCS experts directly about the technical and non-technical aspects of CCS. The presentations of the technical aspects covered the three main stages of CCS chain: CO2 capture technologies, transportation and storage. Other technical talks also included relevant topics, like the evaluation of environmental impacts during CO2 capture and storage, and the current methods used for monitoring onshore/offshore CO2 storage. The non-technical presentations included aspects related to carbon accounting, policy-regulations, costs and CCS financing, public perception and in general how CSS can fit in the renewables energies context. In particular the non-technical talks gave me a more comprehensive view of the importance of international regulations/policies and business models to boost the large-scale deployment of CCS.

The speakers, coming from the academia and industry, were enthusiastic and knowledgeable in their fields. The students, on the other side, were an interesting mix of 36 people coming from 14 different countries, with diverse academic backgrounds and research/job interests. During each day, the group engaged with questions and opinions to the speakers, but also with our group work during nights. 

On Wednesday, the presentations paused and we had a field trip to Saskpower Boundary Dam Power Station. I haven’t had too much contact with the industry so it was staggering to see face to face a large-scale power plant, but even more to visit the world first commercial large-scale CCS plant. After this, we visited the Aquistore Project, where part of the CO2 captured in Boundary Dam (Unit 3) is permanently stored in deep-saline aquifers; and then the Carbon Capture Test Facility of Sakspower Shand Power Station. The staff in all three places was very welcoming and we had the opportunity for a Q&A session with them.

The group work consisted of six teams of five or six students with the task to discuss about a question that had been assigned at the beginning of the week. On Saturday, the groups delivered the “presentations” showing a hard work and effort to present our ideas and research in the best informative and attractive way. The presentation’s creativity ranged from a set of an UN Climate Change Conference discussing if CCS should be mandatory in developed countries to a trial setting to defend Boundary Dam project from false accusations by showing instead the lessons learned (including Law & Order TV series tunes). The winning group was a representation of a stakeholders meeting presenting the role of networks and cluster on CCS development in Canada. 

The summer school was also intense, with long days sometimes ending at around 11 pm with the group work, and with most of us dealing with a bit of jet lag during the first days. The group work was a bit challenging at the beginning; my group, for example, didn’t know what the unburnable carbon issue was about (our given question), but after a few hours of research, we started to understand it and know each other better. By Saturday, we had reviewed reports and papers and had created a role play to dramatise the range of opinions/interests different characters had in relation to the role of CCS in the unburnable carbon issue. Each of us represented a character: a Fossil fuel company, a Developing Country - me J, a Developed Countries, an NGO, the Carbon bubble and of course CCS. We had fun preparing the script, and even more rehearsing the “play”. I could even assure that some of my partners (now friends) discovered new talents as actors and script writers, while doing this. The presentation went very well, the audience enjoyed it, judging by their laughs and applauses. After that, the panel did a 15-minutes-round of questions, with some tricky ones, but in general with a good feedback from them and our supportive mentors. So at the end, this was the “hard work” part, but at the same time very enjoyable experience. I think we could all reinforce the importance of real team work and how valuable it is to share ideas but also to listen to the others.

About Regina I can say that from studying in Manchester, where sunny days are scarce, I enjoyed the lovely weather we had during that week, days full of sunlight and a beautiful blue sky. The campus of the University of Regina is very beautiful, with lots of green lawns and close to Wascana Centre, a gorgeous park with a big lake; definitely one of the landmarks of the city. Inside the campus, you could also see some of the Canadian fauna, with praire dogs, very much like squirrels and also giant bunnies, called jackrabbits.

To finalize the week, also on Saturday we had some free time and after that a very special closing dinner, with speeches from the members of the organizing committee, and awards for the best group and most outstanding students.

It was an unforgettable week, a great experience not just for all the things learned about CCS but also for the amazing people I could meet there: the speakers, the support staff, the mentors and of course the students of the summer school. Being the only student working on BECCS (Biomass conversion with Carbon capture and Storage) allowed me to talk a lot about my PhD research, and understand more clearly that for BECCS technologies to be deployed, we need CCS to advance. There is still a lot of work to do, but I left this summer school with more enthusiasm about the work I’m doing and how I want this to impact on the future of a more sustainable and fair planet.  


S. Garcia