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Managing stakeholders in an ambiguous country
The Netherlands is an ambiguous country when it comes to CCS. During the last years, onshore CCS initiatives in the town of Barendrecht and in the north of the country have been cancelled by national authorities after opposition was raised. According to the minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovations, there is not sufficient societal support for onshore CCS. Therefore the national Government only allows and supports offshore initiatives. The single offshore project in the country at this moment is ROAD (Rotterdam Opslag en Afvang Demonstratieproject – Rotterdam Storage and Capture Demonstration project). Currently, the project is in the last phase of the permitting procedure, and preparing for the final investment decision. The ROAD project will store captured CO2 of a new coal-fired power plant in the Rotterdam harbour area. The CO2 will be transported via an onshore and offshore pipeline to an existing platform 20km out of the coast and injected in a depleted gas reservoir at 3.5km depth.
Many lessons can be learned from the cancelled onshore projects on the field of stakeholder and public engagement and communication. It is of course interesting to see how these lessons are now integrated in the ROAD project. In a recent publication on stakeholder management, the ROAD team presents their approach and actions on these fields. After reading the report I spoke with the manager communications and public engagement of ROAD, Marc Kombrink to learn more about the details and his personal experiences. “The ROAD team is very much aware of the relevance of societal, public and stakeholder acceptance for the initiative. We integrate stakeholder management from the beginning in our project structure and team,” says Kombrink.
Something that illustrates the strategy on stakeholder management of ROAD is the broad definition of the concept. The strategy not only includes public outreach and communication, but also the permitting and regulatory processes. Kombrink explains the importance of good relations and open dialogue with the stakeholders involved in the latter. “Like for us as a project team, also for these parties CCS is new. No examples or experiences exist when it comes to regulation and permitting of offshore CCS in the Netherlands. We, in a way, learn together how to do things. This means not only having short links and close contact between individuals of the project team and the authorities but also sharing information,” Kombrink says. “We gave for example presentations about CCS and the ROAD project to employees of the permitting authorities and pointed out to each other new publications from other sources.”
A second interesting aspect of the stakeholder management strategy is close co-operation with the other aspects in the project: finance and engineering. This is done both formally, e.g. by joining each other’s meetings, but also informally in the open work space in the new office of the project team. Engineers, geologists and finance specialists are working in the same office as those involved in for example permitting, regulation and communication tasks. This improves the communication between the different aspects of the project, but more importantly, also the understanding of each other. “As I’m sitting together with technical experts in a room, we know better what the other person is doing. The engineer on the other side of the corridor knows for example that I’m writing a brochure in which I want to give information on the specifications of the pipelines. Although all details of these are not frozen at this stage, we discuss what would be best to write down now.”
Additionally, the ROAD project also paid attention to the communication and presentation skills of the technical experts. They were trained in how to explain technical issues to lay people. "Focus in these trainings is on how to deal with people who show emotions or ask ‘unexpected’ questions,” says Kombrink. The technical experts have been trained to avoid yes-no discussions and focus on listening and understanding why people ask specific questions. The technical experts experienced the benefits of the training during the information events for local stakeholders and local public. “At one of these events for example, one of our geologists met a woman who was worried about the underground effects of CO2. The geologist listened carefully and explained to her individually all kind of details about the underground. He used billboards and brochures and even showed her a piece of cap rock. The woman very much appreciated the one-on-one approach as well as the explanation of all details. She was better informed and felt more at ease afterwards.”
Read the ROAD Stakeholder Management report.
The ROAD website.
This is the first of two posts on the stakeholder management of the ROAD project. The next post will focus specifically on the communication strategy of ROAD.
This post expresses the views of this author and not necessarily of their organisation or the Global CCS Institute.