ESTEVAN — Estevan hosted a group of international leaders, who one way or another deal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, last Wednesday.
While summer vacation for most may be reserved for leisure, this was not the case for 32 PhD, post-doctorate, engineering and policy students who had the opportunity to attend the annual International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas (IEAGHG) R&D Programme's CCS Summer School, which took place July 10-14 in Regina and elsewhere.
Hailing from 29 countries, students were competitively selected on merit, recommendations and a desire to fully immerse themselves in learning about CCS technology.
The program, which allows for intense learning and multi-level networking, also provided its participants with a first-hand experience of the world-leading CCS facilities in Estevan, including tours of SaskPower's fully-integrated Boundary Dam Unit 3 (BD3) Carbon Capture and Storage Facility, the nearby Aquistore CCS storage site as well as the Carbon Capture Test Facility at Shand Power Station.
The students got to witness technology in action, learning how large-scale CCS is a critical tool for achieving the world's ambitious emissions-reduction targets, and how lessons learned from BD3 and other existing CCS projects can accelerate the deployment of the next generation of the technology across heavy industries around the world.
"I'm very impressed. I'm from South Africa, so I'm very familiar with a lot of coal plants. And it's quite impressive to see how a coal plant has been [upgraded with a] carbon capture facility," said one of the participants Tshiamo Moleele, council for geoscience. "The capture plant was really interesting to see, especially seeing the CO2 compressor and realizing how it works."
Moleele also noted that it's "really enlightening and inspiring" to see how the Canadian government is putting an effort into carbon capture.
While many students came from outside Canada, there were several local and international students involved with Canadian universities.
University of Regina chemical engineering student Toluwanimi Adetunji said from a professional perspective, seeing the carbon capture process live was very interesting, and the network the school creates is beneficial for future development.
Another chemical engineer involved with the school, Vida Gabriel, who is a co-founder of a direct air carbon captured startup, TerraFixing Inc, based out of Ottawa, said "Visiting the carbon capture facility was incredibly fascinating and so exciting."
"I'm a chemical engineer by training and am now developing carbon capture technology. Although TerraFixing's technology differs from SaskPower's operations in that it captures CO2 from the air rather than from flue gas stacks, there is still so much technological overlap between the technologies," said Gabriel.
"Being selected as a student for the IEAGHG summer school enabled me to meet and connect with one of the pioneering carbon capture plant chemical engineers, Jon Ruffini [Jonathan Ruffini, senior production support for CCS at the Boundary Dam Power Station], which was defined as a highlight for me. And, as per the CCS knowledge center's mission, I'll be able to learn from all of their lessons learned as we scale up our technology and build our pilot, with many opportunities to collaborate.
She feels that carbon capture technologies are not talked about enough and she hopes to work on furthering education about it when back in Ottawa.
Emma Loizeaux, who is a social scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, said "Understanding technologies is really key to understanding how they intersect with social processes," which is what her research is on, and the Estevan field trip strongly benefitted it.
The group arrived in Estevan Wednesday morning and spent the entire day in the Energy City. Tim Dixon, IEAGHG general manager, was a part of the tour along with other mentors and some sponsors.
"We are very excited to be bringing the International CCS Summer School and these bright and motivated international students to Saskatchewan and the International CCS Knowledge Centre for the fourth time. Saskatchewan is recognized globally as a centre of excellence on CCUS, with the International CCS Knowledge Centre and SaskPower's Boundary Dam CCS project. It is the best location in the world to learn about CCUS," said Dixon.
He noted that the competition to join the school this year was indeed intense, and they put a lot of effort into ensuring a really well-rounded and diversified group of leaders who will benefit from the program in their careers and research.
The IEAGHG International CCS Summer School travels annually around the globe to different host countries. However, it has returned to Regina, the only repeat city, for the fourth time. The draw to this location is the International CCS Knowledge Centre, based in the Saskatchewan capital, which provides a unique, hands-on CCS experience through tours to Estevan.
BD3 is the world's first and only CCS facility on a commercial power plant. It has captured and safely stored more than five million tonnes of CO2 since it began operation in October 2014.
"The International CCS Knowledge Centre is proud to host such a diverse group of students who can take the technical and strategic expertise gained from this summer school forward around the globe to truly make a difference in the climate change fight and build a better world for future generations," said James Millar, president and CEO of the International CCS Knowledge Centre.
The IEAGHG, as the proprietor of the CCS summer school – now in its 15th year – aims to broaden the knowledge base around CCS in industrialized and developing countries, particularly at an academic level. Throughout an intensive week of learning, the CCS summer school programme covers every aspect of CCS, from technical, such as capture, transport, storage and industrial uses, to regulation, policy, financing and communication.
Along with international students, the summer school attracts global experts with the most recent information available in each field. With 677 alumni representing over 59 countries, the summer school has played a key role in many moving on to successful careers within the CCS industry and academia.
Dixon shared some of their graduates' success stories. He said he recently received an email from a 2009 participant, who took the knowledge obtained through the school to Trinidad and Tobago, which is now progressing on CCS. Another student became a CCS champion in Guyana, and many others had success with implementing knowledge and using connections they built through the program.
This year's event took place at the University of Regina. Next year will see international CCS leaders gathering in Australia.