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A CCS community in a gas hub
CCS and the Netherlands have a love-hate relationship.
Being a country with relatively large natural gas resources, the Netherlands has extensive experience with developing energy projects in the deep underground including the construction of infrastructure, long-term underground monitoring, and creating legal and policy frameworks in relation to gas exploration. Being the ‘gas hub’ of Europe led to a huge knowledge base and relatively large community of experts on all related fields.
Most households in the Netherlands are connected to the gas grid and citizens are thus used to gas and it’s characteristics in their nearby environment. One would say that this is the perfect place to develop CCS: the perfect geological conditions, a large expert community and a society familiar with gas.
However, the reality is different.
Being a frontrunner in the preparation of large-scale CCS demonstration projects in the beginning of this century, the country faced huge public resistance to CCS projects in Barendrecht and the north of the country. After delaying these projects, the Government finally decided to cancel all onshore CCS projects and only continue to support offshore initiatives. This political decision was announced at the beginning of 2011.
What impact did it have on the research on CCS in the Netherlands? What impact did it have on the CCS community? And what vision of the future does the CCS community have in the Netherlands?
To the surprise of most outsiders, the CCS community in the Netherlands is still very active. Studies on technical, legal and social aspects of CCS are performed on a large scale and rank high in global overviews. The national research programme, CATO, professionally organises a large part of this research and is the central platform of the CCS community. At a recent national symposium, Dutch CCS experts gathered to discuss latest developments under the theme ‘roadmap to reality’. This is a sign that the community still believes in a future for CCS. It is also a sign that the Dutch CCS community not only looks at the technology from a national perspective, but continue developing CCS to contribute to worldwide emissions reduction.
Some of the speakers at the symposium referred to the political decisions of 2011. But instead of putting it in a negative frame, they considered it as an opportunity in the sense that the Netherlands might have been too early with CCS when society was not ready for it yet. Now, in a period that no onshore projects are developed, there is time to implement the lessons learnt: to inform Dutch society in a neutral way about climate change, CCS and other carbon reduction technologies, to educate and create a knowledge base, to give the general public and other future stakeholders of CCS projects the opportunity to assess CCS and compare to other technologies, and develop a stable and well-informed opinion. In short, to create a society which is prepared for CCS.
So far the call for information and education of the Dutch public has not really been grasped. The call must thus be made louder and repeated at several places. In my view this is an important task for the Dutch CCS community. Governments, but also industries, schools, NGOs and others must be reached and activated to pick up the common goal to create a society ready for new energy technologies and emission reduction, including CCS. This is the only thing that can really help to increase the chances of regaining that forerunner position.
This post expresses the views of this author and not necessarily of their organisation or the Global CCS Institute.