|Paul Fennell of Imperial College illustrates the capture process|
Written by Thomas Wild, PhD student at the University of Aberdeen and one of the student volunteers for The Carbon Conundrum event at the British Science Festival 2014.
The session, chaired by Dr Claire Ainsworth, was kicked off by Dr David Reiner who highlighted some public perceptions of CCS with the aid of interactive voting devices. After the inevitable technical issues (it wasn't plugged in) the audience voted on their level of support for government investment, on whether or not they would use nuclear, solar, and carbon capture and storage, and more generally if they were familiar with CCS, and fracking. This audience turned out to be more supportive and informed on CCS than the general UK public, which is hardly surprising seeing as they turned up to a talk on a Sunday morning! It was a great way to get people thinking about what they know...and more importantly perhaps, what they wanted to know.
Professor Myles Allen then set out to address one seemingly simple, but ultimately complicated point: Why CCS matters. He took us through the issues of CO₂: where it all came from, what has it done so far and what will it do in the future.
|Voting under way during David Reiner's talk at The Carbon Conundrum|
He also addressed a common question: "Why should Britain lead the way with CCS when we only produce 2% of global CO₂" This was answered in the form of this 60 second video which shows a time lapse of global CO₂ output since 1750. Britain is the only producer for over 100 years, until about 1850 when European emissions started, followed by eastern USA and Japan in the 1900's. He followed this up by stressing the point that we have no right to tell developing countries not to use their vast coal reserves after we, as a nation, reaped the benefits of this abundant resource ourselves for hundreds of years. He sees CCS as the only viable option to allow these countries to make full use of these resources (as they intend to do)
Calum Hughes, the Project Director for National Grid Carbon (who are delivering transport and storage) then spoke about the White Rose CCS Project in Yorkshire. He briefly outlined the oxy-combustion and other technologies that are involved in actually capturing CO₂ from a coal fired power plant. He then showed the impressive plans for the CCS plant that would be attached to the existing Drax facility. I think one of the most important points made was of the phenomenal storage potential that the UK has in the North Sea, and East Irish Sea. This really highlighted the great position we are in, and, that if we act upon it, can become world leaders in terms of scale, and market leaders in terms of capture, transport and storage within Europe.
|Thomas explains the roles of different types of rock in a typical storage site|
The fact that the subsequent Q & A panel ran over by nearly 15 minutes showed just how engaged the audience were, and is also a testament to the expertise of the expert panel who were joined by Dr Paul Fennell (Imperial College - Capture), Dr Julia Race (University of Strathclyde - Transport) and Michelle Bentham (BGS - Storage) who between them answered questions on the full chain CCS process.
Following this we all headed next door to the demo area where we had interactive displays and simple experiments set up for everyone to get involved with. This saw people shaking Coke bottles filled with CO₂ and chemical solvents to simulate CO₂ scrubbing, people blowing up balloons to get an idea of the transport system and a CO₂ storage site fish tank where people could see the basic concept behind CCS storage. Even though they were simplified examples, they helped create a great atmosphere and explain the concepts behind CCS to the audience. It also gave people another opportunity to ask us about everything from "How long it would stay down there?" to "How can you get a liquid into a rock?"
Overall this was a fantastic little event and one that I am convinced helped to spread knowledge of the science and application of CCS technology within the UK.
This event was organised by SCCS with UKCCSRC and BGS and with support from Imperial College London and EPRG at University of Cambridge.
You can see more photos from the event in UKCCSRC's Flickr album.
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