Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) is celebrating 15 years at the forefront of science and engagement aimed at delivering one of the most promising climate technologies: carbon capture and storage (CCS).
As the Covid-19 crisis continues, climate change remains one of the deadliest threats to people and nature, with its impact escalating and causing turmoil worldwide.
The technologies collectively known as CCS are an essential part of the path from fossil fuel dependence to a net zero emissions future for countries seeking to meet Paris Agreement commitments.
Last week, the UK Committee on Climate Change reiterated that “CCS is a necessity, not an option”, and called on the UK Government to move faster and more strategically on reducing emissions from industry.
In 2005, when Professor Adrian Todd of Heriot-Watt University brought together like minds from the University of Edinburgh, the British Geological Survey (BGS) and his own institute, their shared goal was to enable significant CO₂ emissions reduction through research and knowledge exchange on geological CO2 storage.
“In 2005, CASSEM, the first major project in the newly established SCCS, proved the value of integrating the expertise in the partnership between Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities and BGS,” Prof Todd said.
“The project focused on the challenge of the prediction of CO2 management in the subsurface. SCCS has grown in scope, participation and impact, far beyond what was originally envisaged.”
Today, SCCS remains true to that original vision and has, in the intervening years, added the universities of Aberdeen, Strathclyde and St Andrews (as associate partner) – to the partnership. It is set to welcome a further two high-ranking Scottish institutes in the coming weeks.
In the early years, SCCS led a number of innovative joint industry projects spearheading research – such as assessing the UK and Scotland’s offshore CO2 storage potential – which has underpinned studies that could see CCS operating in the UK in the next few years.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine, of the University of Edinburgh, who became SCCS Director in 2011, at the same time began raising the profile of CCS and its necessity through television and radio interviews, public events and influential submissions to Scottish and UK Government inquiries.
SCCS scientists and the team of professional staff have since broadened their reach through involvement in a range of international projects exploring, developing and defining the use of CCS across sectors; from industrial processes and power generation to hydrogen production, waste-to-energy and, most recently, refineries.
“The success of SCCS goes far beyond the conventional academic objectives of the original investment by Scottish Funding Council. As a 2005 start-up, we were five academics. Today, the SCCS partnership is in the region of 100,” said Prof Haszeldine.
“We have working relationships with academics, project developers, energy and finance professionals, and government and regulatory agencies worldwide. And we are proud that SCCS research and connectivity has supported four CCS development projects in Scotland through to final commercial bidding.”
“We have several notable ‘firsts’ on our journey, including the world’s first CCS Masters, the first rigorous survey of North Sea CO2 storage capacity, the first European Project of Common Interest on cross border CO2 transport and the world’s first professor of CCS.”
“We anticipate more firsts in the future and to have come this far is due to the resilience and dedication of our researchers, the professionalism of SCCS staff and unwavering support from Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Government, and Scottish Enterprise. Without all of them, we wouldn’t be here.”
Despite setbacks over the years, CCS is finally gaining the attention it deserves – even getting special mention in the UK and Scotland’s plans for post-Covid recovery.
This is in no small part due to the ongoing dialogue and research initiatives by science and industry, continued advocacy on the role of CCS as part of climate change mitigation, and a staunch – some might say stubborn – determination to see the technology deployed at scale before it is too late.