Davey Fitch, SCCS Business Development Executive, reflects on Shell's recent local community events
Those involved with CCS are sure that all of the parts are in place to start real, commercial projects. However, it’s understandable that the public may have questions, and it’s important that developers and researchers answer them. So when Shell held a series of informal local drop-in sessions for the public to display the plans for their Peterhead CCS project, we at SCCS were keen to get involved. I went along to their Aberdeen event on 16 January and met with people from a range of backgrounds, as well as key Shell staff working on the project.
|Davey Fitch, SCCS Business Development Manager. Image © SCCS|
The Peterhead Project, led by Shell along with SSE (who operate the gas-fired Peterhead power station) is one of two demonstration projects selected by the UK Government to be eligible for funding from its £1 billion CCS Commercialisation Programme, along with the White Rose CCS project in Yorkshire. Peterhead isn’t a done deal but the signs are positive that funding for the vital design study will be confirmed, after White Rose reached that stage in December.
Shell clearly thought that the time had come to give the public a chance to find out more about the project, which seems positive in itself.
As a team, we spoke about SCCS involvement in the Shell events. We felt it was important to remain impartial. While we want CCS to take off, and therefore support this particular project, we can’t promote the Peterhead project specifically or explain the commercial and technical aspects of it. We don’t work for Shell.
So we agreed on a set-up where SCCS had a minor presence and display at most of the events – the ones we could make it along to – and could answer questions on CCS in general, but that we would pass on specific questions to the Shell employees there. I answered questions from oil workers, interested locals and social scientists about how CCS works, and why we’re confident that the North Sea represents a huge opportunity for geological CO₂ storage. People wanted to know how CO₂ is captured, what’s going on with CCS in other countries, and what makes for a good storage site. My favourite question was the lady that asked me why the UK hadn’t moved ahead and done this much sooner. Indeed!
Overall, I would say that people were curious and generally supportive although, of course, there were a few sceptics. Maybe people in that part of Scotland are generally used to oil and gas-related industry – and the jobs and investment that come with it – and aren’t unduly worried about development.
The project itself is relatively straightforward, using a lot of existing infrastructure to deliver CO₂ by pipeline to Shell’s Goldeneye platform (about 60 miles offshore), and inject it into a depleted gas field. There will be modifications made to the Peterhead power station, to capture and compress CO₂ from the flue gases, and then a new section (about 12-16 miles) of pipeline will go from there, out to sea, to meet up with the pipe which used to bring gas from Goldeneye to the shore at St Fergus.
I found the Shell project staff very well informed, as expected, but also very approachable and happy to answer questions on any aspect of the project – construction, engineering, project management, environmental impact. I’ll no doubt meet some of them again as the project (hopefully) progresses – while, of course, maintaining our independent stance.
|Image © SCCS|
Industrial-scale CCS projects have been slow to get off the ground both in the UK and across Europe, but there have been some positive signals in recent months. I definitely got the impression from the Shell staff on the project that CCS was something that they themselves really believed in for the future, and that their business depends on it. In the long run, it will be more expensive for all of us if big companies like Shell don’t invest in CCS, along with governments.
It’s vital that developers and CCS researchers listen to the public, explain how CCS works and hopefully allay any concerns. These public events were just part of the early stages of this project, but hopefully CCS is on the way to becoming just another normal part of 21st century life.