1st North Sea Young CCS Researchers Conference, Rotterdam

A few weeks back, a bunch of early career researchers (ECR’s) from the UK, Netherlands and Norway met in Rotterdam to look at the latest developments in carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Netherlands, and to negotiate a statement of intent called The First Declaration of Amsterdam.

I wrote up the following text afterwards, which was used as the basis for another blog post on the UK CCS Research Centre (UKCCSRC) page. Other ECR’s contributed their thoughts, so the UKCCSRC blog is a little different to this. I’ve also added some of my own thoughts, and some more links in. The UKCCSRC blog post can be found by clicking this link.

On Wednesday 18th June 2014, 25 CCS ECR’s from across Northern Europe convened in Rotterdam to network, to learn more about the Netherlands’ CCS ambitions, and to produce The First Declaration of Amsterdam (more on that later).

The meeting was organised by CATO-2, the Dutch national R&D programme for CO2 capture, transport and storage, and travel funding assistance was provided to UK ECRs by the UKCCSRC, which is a virtual network of UK CCS stakeholders (academia, industry, regulators, etc.) funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the Research Councils UK Energy Programme.

After an overnight stay for the UK ECRs in a quaint hotel boat in Oosterdok, Amsterdam, next to the NEMO Science Centre, we were bused down to the Rotterdam Harbour area with our fellow North Sea ECRs. We were split into small groups of 3-4 people, and over the couple of hours spent on the buses, we used that time to present and discuss our research to the group in short slots of 15 minute or so (or rather longer with my group!). After this we were set the task of jotting down ideas for the content of our Declaration.

The First Declaration of Amsterdam was intended, I believe, to make a statement to CCS stakeholders that North Sea young/early career researchers are an important part of advancing CCS presently and particularly in the future. On this theme, we were asked to come up with ideas which expressed why CCS is important, broadly where we expect progress to be made, and what we will commit ourselves to in the future as ECRs.

Job done on coming up with some ideas for the Declaration, we arrived at Futureland Information Centre at Maasvlakte 2, a brand spanking new 2,000 hectare extension of the Rotterdam harbour area. Here we treated to three excellent presentations from Asha Raghoebarsing (Policy Advisor for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs), Niels Berghout (Researcher at Utrecht University) and Marc Kambrink (ROAD), covering Dutch energy policy, demonstration CCS projects, issues with CCS in the Netherlands (i.e. cost and public acceptance), anticipated CO2 transport networks in the Netherlands, and more on the ROAD (Rotterdam capture and storage demonstration) project.

Maasvalkte is home to two E.ON 1.1 GW coal-fired power stations. The original station was built in the late 1970’s, initially as an oil burning power station, but was subsequently converted to coal after the global oil crisis in 1979. The new station was developed for the ROAD project and is some 46% thermally efficient, comes ‘capture ready’ on 250MW, and will capture 1.1 million tons annually of CO2 for storage 20km offshore in a depleted gas reservoir. It is hoped that this will start capturing CO2 in 2017. Currently there is a funding shortfall on the ROAD project to enable the construction of the capture facilities and subsequent storage, with it being reported at the 7th Dutch CCS Symposium that the project was essentially “mothballed”. However, since then, the Norwegian Government announced that it would front some capital for the project, as reported by Bellona, but they their own take on whether the project will ever go ahead.

E.ON Coal Plants

New E.ON 1.1 GW coal fired power station on the left, capture ready as part of the ROAD project. The old station is on the right, both at Rotterdam Harbour

Lunch was then taken on board a boat tour of the new port at Maasvalkte. Very impressive it is too, although I think my brain gave up trying to keep up with how much sand and rocks had been dredged and sculpted to form it! I had to re-engage it for the afternoon activity, which was where we, as ECRs, had to distill all our ideas from the bus journey into a text which we could present as our declaration. This involved an, a times, lively debate about what the wording should be for some of the statements we wanted to make. While much smaller in scope, I can imagine the process we went through mirrored that of the IPCC in agreeing the text of their influential climate reports. Definitely a new experience for me, agreeing a text by group consensus!

The result of that process is below, which was presented to John Gale, General Manager of the International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme, at the 7th Dutch CCS Symposium the following day. The ECR’s who attended wrote up a blog about it. I have to admit to being a wee bit skeptical about the Declaration. As an exercise in developing negotiating and network skills, and as a way of promoting ECR’s to the wider CCS community, then it was worthwhile. As a semi-formal commitment…not so. ECR’s, by definition, include PhD students and post-doctorate researchers. Both groups are, by and large, transient. Very few PhD students go on to post-doctoral research, and if they do it is often in something unrelated to their PhD. PhD’s are also only around for 3-4 years before moving on. Likewise, post-doc. researchers are on temporary contracts of only a few years, and few seem to last the distance into permanent research positions. So, as researchers, negotiating a document which requires some degree of dedication and commitment seems a little, dare I say, pointless? After all, most of us will move on to other things, whether we are committed to CCS or not. Personally, I think commitments like this are what the big boys in industry should be putting forward, collectively. Likewise, the researchers at the top of the food chain. Without them, ECR’s have no future, since we rely on them for giving us the opportunities to carry on our research. Perhaps this is was the point of the exercise, now that I consider it. This was maybe an advert to the top dogs: “Here we are, this is what we want, now give us the opportunities!” And First Declaration… suggests that, like X-Factor, there will be revisions of this in following years. Only time will tell where this leads us.


The First Declaration of Amsterdam as negotiated by North Sea Early Career Researchers

Anyway, we wrapped the day up with a bus tour around the E.ON site, showing us the (outside) of both coal power stations, and on the bus trip back to Amsterdam we got another opportunity to present our work amongst small groups again. And most entertaining day was capped off with beers, burgers and World Cup football back in Amsterdam!

There are more photos of the day on the UKCCSRC Flickr page. You can follow UKCCSRC and CATO on Twitter too, which I’d heartily recommend!


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