Every year, up to 60 young students and researchers applying from across the world are selected to attend the IEAGHG Summer School on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), where they can get to know experts in the field, listen to their presentations and interrogate them in open discussions. This year, we were among the lucky 60. In Saskatchewan, Canada, where the International CCS Knowledge Center located at the University of Regina hosted this year’s summer school, we spent five full days learning about every aspect of CO2 capture, utilization, transport and storage.  All topics were covered, from the most technical details to their societal and regulatory implications. In the evening, in full digestion of our dinner and of the daily load of information, we started working on our group projects: six teams looking into six different CCS related hot topics; seven people with complementary backgrounds forming each team; four evenings to investigate the topic, formulate a structured answer to the research question, and put up a convincing presentation.

To round off our experience, the program included a day trip to Boundary Dam, the world’s first commercial carbon capture facility on a coal-fired power plant, and Aquistore, where a fraction of the captured CO2 is permanently stored underground. Standing next to the injection well at the Aquistore site, and looking over to the skyscraping smokestacks of Boundary Dam more than 3 km away, knowing that at the same distance under our feet more and more CO2 is injected every day, rather than released to the atmosphere, that is when we realized that our research is no utopia.

Altogether, it was an intense week that left us with a feeling of belonging to a community, and of having a goal. Although the discussions heated up sometimes, there is one thing we all have agreed upon: the importance of CCS in fighting climate change and the importance of us becoming the next generation of CCS experts. We recommend everybody who is interested and motivated to apply: thanks to several sponsors –among others, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy– the IEAGHG Summer School can be attended at no cost by PhD students or young researchers who want to get to know all about CCS.

Anne Streb and Stefano Zanco, PhD students at the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, ETH Zurich

Photo: Photo courtesy of the International CCS Knowledge Centre

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