Global CCS Institute turns 10: Interview with CEO Brad Page
15th July 2019
In June 2019 the Global CCS Institute turned 10. To mark the occasion, we sat down with CEO Brad Page to hear his thoughts on how the Institute has evolved, some of its major achievements, his highlights as CEO of almost eight years, and more.
This month, the Institute celebrates its 10-year anniversary. How is the organisation different from when it was formed 10 years ago?
The Global CCS Institute began in 2009 as an innovative, Member owned company. The Institute was formed as part of the Australian contribution to addressing climate change under the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and was made possible through generous funding and logistical support from the Australian Government. It had a global remit and an aim to accelerate the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage, or CCS. This was to be achieved by sharing knowledge gained from the first wave of projects, so that costs could be reduced more quickly than otherwise would be the case.
To this day the initial ambition of the Institute can be found in the Constitution which includes a company objective to support the development of 20 large scale CCS projects to be operating by 2020. The Institute’s first Global Status of CCS Report, covering the 2010 year, records that there were eight large scale facilities operating and four more under construction. In 2009 the Institute had one office – in Australia’s capital city, Canberra – was furiously recruiting staff, making plans for how to acquire and share knowledge and reaching out to many like-minded organisations around the world.
Ten years later the Institute is a very different place, and an organisation with major achievements to its credit. With our Head Office now in Melbourne, Australia, and fully operational offices with locally engaged, expert staff in Washington DC, London, Brussels, Tokyo and Beijing – as well as sole representatives in Calgary and Aberdeen – the Institute is now genuinely global in its presence.
We have the most comprehensive CCS knowledge base in the world, covering operating facilities, projects under development as well the policy, legal, regulatory, storage and economics aspects of CCS. Our global team consists of technical experts across all areas of CCS, and we enjoy the membership support of some of the most significant governments and businesses in the world. And perhaps most significantly we connect, and are connected, with a very wide range of policy makers and opinion leaders in the global climate and energy space.
CCS has also progressed with 18 large scale facilities now operating, five under construction and a further 20 in various stages of development; the ‘20 by 2020’ objective is tantalisingly close to being achieved.
What are some of the challenges the Institute has overcome?
The Institute was founded in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis. This was a time of challenge but also opportunity as governments around the world sought to ignite their economies with fiscal stimulus which, in many places, included large and direct financial support for CCS projects. The optimism for a rapid deployment of CCS in many countries was consequently high. Unfortunately, this optimism was misplaced, and many promising projects did not proceed to construction in the years that followed.
There were several reasons for this, including continuing structural economic problems in many countries and incomplete policy offerings to see CCS projects able to make a positive FID. At the Institute we knew that, as unfortunate as this was, the climate math was inescapable, CCS would be necessary, and its resurgence inevitable. As such, the Institute had to continually make the case for policy attention and support to return CCS to the climate solutions mainstage. It was our job to keep sending the message that CCS is real, necessary and a conduit to an array of new and valuable low emission economic activities.
In the face of apparent declining interest and commitment from governments and noisy doubters of the viability of the technology, we had to maintain the enthusiasm and increase our advocacy for active support for CCS. The 2015 Paris Agreement was a turning point and since then, the attention and embrace of CCS as one of the necessary emissions reduction technologies has been roaring back. We’d like to think we played our part in keeping CCS in the climate debate and look forward many more positive developments.
What do you believe to be the greatest strengths of the Institute?
Over the past 10 years, with fantastic support from our Members and the developers of CCS projects, the Institute has built the most comprehensive and insightful knowledge base on ‘everything CCS’. Earlier this year, we brought it all together and launched our new global CCS database, CO2RE.com, proving we really are the one-stop-shop for the full picture on CCS. We have also established an impressive global network of offices, expert staff, Members and strategic partners meaning the CCS world is now connected, effective and focused on deploying this much needed technology.
Finally, a great strength I think most people would agree with is the Institute’s position as the voice of CCS around the globe. This includes: a long-standing involvement in the UNFCCC processes and subsidiary bodies such as the CTCN, GCF and TEC; a highly effective mainstream and social media presence; direct engagement as a trusted adviser to many governments and their officials and; broadening the CCS message through an ever widening engagement in high profile events such as the World Economic Forum, World Energy Congress, annual UNFCCC Conference of the Parties and recently hosting an official side event in conjunction with the G20 Environment Ministers meeting in Japan.
What have been the standout achievements for CCS over the past 10 years?
In my view, the standout achievements over the past 10 years include – in no particular order – the opening of Test Center Mongstad (TCM), the construction and operation of Boundary Dam 3 (BD3) CCS facility, the establishment of the Al Reyadah CCUS facility in Abu Dhabi, the passage of the 45Q tax credit provision in the USA, and the Tomakomai integrated CCS facility in Japan.
I choose these because: TCM demonstrated the deepest of commitments to CCS by the Norwegian Government which has continued to be a global CCS champion, and being the first electricity generation plant to be equipped with CCS means BD3 in Saskatchewan will forever be a ground breaker; Al Reyadah is the first steel plant with carbon capture, something we will need a lot more of to achieve the Paris goals; 45Q is by far the most targeted and positive government policy we have seen anywhere, ever, to provide the necessary incentive to deploy CCS; and finally, Tomakomai proves that good community engagement, innovative technology, and sound science allows safe and effective CO2 storage to be done even in one of the most seismically active regions in the world. These achievements all prove that CCS is versatile, proven, safe and viable.
What have been your top three highlights as CEO?
Leading the Institute over the past (almost) eight years has resulted in many highlights. My top three would have to include witnessing the growth of the Institute’s reach, influence and standing in the broader climate and energy community. Another is the evolution of the Institute from a government initiative with high hopes to a successful, focused and highly credible Member-owned company with strong support from our diverse membership base. And finally, the pride I have as CEO in the commitment, deep engagement and hard work of the staff of the Institute.
Where do you hope to see the Institute in another 10 years?
By then, with me (hopefully) in retirement from full time work, I would like to see the Institute being led by a passionate person – hopefully a woman – and no longer making the case for the deployment of CCS to address the climate challenge, but instead actively helping governments and companies – most likely in developing countries – who are in need of expert assistance to create the conditions required to deploy CCS.
Describe the Institute in three words.
Professional. Connected. Committed.