Scholarly article on topic 'Exploring framing and social learning in demonstration projects of carbon capture and storage'

Exploring framing and social learning in demonstration projects of carbon capture and storage Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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Energy Procedia
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{"Carbon capture and storage" / "Technology demonstration" / "Social learning" / Innovation}

Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Jennie C. Stephens, Nils Markusson, Atsushi Ishii

Abstract Responding to growing international political interest in the potential of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to contribute to climate change mitigation, multiple CCS demonstration projects of various scales are emerging globally. A fully integrated power-plant with CCS has not yet been demonstrated at scale, and acknowledgement of the scale of learning that still must occur for the technology to advance toward deployment has resulted in calls from multiple constituents for more CCS demonstration projects. Among these demonstration projects, expectations for learning and knowledge-sharing structures vary considerably and attention to different approaches to facilitate learning has been minimal. Through a comparison of the structure, framing and socio-political context of three different CCS demonstration projects, this paper explores the complexity of social learning associated with demonstration projects. Variety in expectations of the demonstration projects’ objectives, learning processes, information sharing mechanisms, public engagement initiatives, financing and collaborative partnerships are highlighted. The comparison shows that multiple factors influence the learning in CCS demonstration projects, including the process of building support for the project, the governance context and the framing of the project justification. This comparative analysis highlights the importance of integrating careful consideration of framing and social learning into CCS demonstration project planning.

Academic research paper on topic "Exploring framing and social learning in demonstration projects of carbon capture and storage"

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Energy Procedía 4 (2011) 6248-6255

Energy Procedía


Exploring framing and social learning in demonstration projects of carbon

capture and storage

Jennie C. Stephensa*, Nils Markussonb, Atsushi Ishiic

a Environmental Science and Policy Program, Department of International Development, Community and Environment, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester MA.01610 USA b School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Grant Institute, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JW,UK c Center for Northeast Asian Studies, Tohoku University, 41 Kawauchi, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi, 980-8576, Japan


Responding to growing international political interest in the potential of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to contribute to climate change mitigation, multiple CCS demonstration projects of various scales are emerging globally. A fully integrated power-plant with CCS has not yet been demonstrated at scale, and acknowledgement of the scale of learning that still must occur for the technology to advance toward deployment has resulted in calls from multiple constituents for more CCS demonstration projects. Among these demonstration projects, expectations for learning and knowledge-sharing structures vary considerably and attention to different approaches to facilitate learning has been minimal. Through a comparison of the structure, framing and socio-political context of three different CCS demonstration projects, this paper explores the complexity of social learning associated with demonstration projects. Variety in expectations of the demonstration projects' objectives, learning processes, information sharing mechanisms, public engagement initiatives, financing and collaborative partnerships are highlighted. The comparison shows that multiple factors influence the learning in CCS demonstration projects, including the process of building support for the project, the governance context and the framing of the project justification. This comparative analysis highlights the importance of integrating careful consideration of framing and social learning into CCS demonstration project planning.

© 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Keywords: Carbon capture and storage; technology demonstration; social learning; innovation

1. Introduction

As concern about climate change mitigation continues to grow, carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) has gained increased interest as a mitigation option [1-3]. Accordingly, the last decade has seen a rapid growth in the knowledge produced to explore and develop CCS technology [4], but multiple challenges for technology development remain. It is increasingly acknowledged that further advancement of the technology requires large scale demonstration of an integrated system with power plant, capture, transport and storage in multiple different contexts and configurations [5]. In various plans for and reports on the needs of CCS demonstration projects [3, 6], including the Zero Emissions Platform (ZEP) proposal on CCS demonstration policy in Europe, lofty learning goals are articulated but mechanisms for achieving those learning goals are not detailed. While learning in a wide range of aspects of CCS are generally


mentioned, including: technological performance, infrastructure requirements, environmental impact, health and safety, legal and regulatory factors, funding and public understanding [7], plans to facilitate all of this learning appear limited with regard to the actors involved and the types of knowledge shared. This disconnect between articulating lofty learning goals with minimal consideration or support for specific mechanisms or plans for achieving the goals highlights the need for a deeper understanding of learning processes surrounding CCS demonstration.

The learning involved in demonstration projects can include not just technical experts learning about the technological configuration, but a broader process of social learning that integrates different types of knowledge and expertise, and involves engaging with a wide range of stakeholders. Learning associated with CCS demonstration projects is social also in the sense of being an outcome of the associated political processes. Given the multiple uncertainties surrounding CCS technology, its wide-spread appeal, the high costs of investing in the technology, and its perceived value as a critical climate mitigation option, the stakes are high with regard to the social, political, and technical ramifications of emerging CCS demonstration projects, so maximizing social as well as technological learning in emerging projects is critical. In the past few years growing public concern about the safety of CCS has emerged. CCS demonstration projects and their outcomes are, therefore, likely to be contested, although the extent and type of contestation is likely to vary considerably based on project specific factors including the project design, the host community, the perceived public benefits of the project, and the established relationships among industry, government and civil society associated with each project.

The goals of this paper are to empirically explore the context-specific social and political complexities of learning in CCS demonstration projects, and to broaden consideration of and encourage integration of social learning processes in the planning of CCS demonstration projects. These goals are achieved through a comparison of the structure, framing and social context of three cases of CCS demonstration projects in three different contexts. The specific research questions of this study are: What are the major differences in the framing of project goals, structure and expectations and how are those differences impacting the potential for social learning of the demonstration projects? How are the processes of social learning in current and proposed CCS demonstration projects influenced by socio-political factors, including engagement with different actors, project financing and political contexts?

2. Theoretical background

Demonstration does not generally mean the communication of existing information, but rather an activity that is part of a social process of knowledge production and technology development. For example, demonstration activities may backfire and highlight the need for more development work [8], and frequently tensions emerge in demonstration projects between the need to exhibit success and the need to test prototypes to their limits [9], which may lead to disconnect between hype and reality [5]. Demonstration is an opportunity to build new social networks around the technology [10] and expand the set of actors engaged with the technology. Promoting, and even selling, a technology is generally a central aim of demonstration projects [11]. Securing government support of the demonstration may also contribute to legitimizing the technology [10]. Demonstration is an interactive process focused on establishing consensus about the technology's properties and building support [12].

Demonstration is often seen as part of a process of technical learning, understood as the establishment of objective facts by the application of scientific and engineering methods, and the subsequent communication of these facts by acknowledged experts to a lay audience. Social science has shown that technological learning is a more complicated social process where interactions between actors with different types of knowledge and differing claims to expertise influences both the dissemination and the production of knowledge. Adopting the notion of 'social learning' (e.g. [13]), as a distributed process involving a wide range of actors, with interaction and negotiation about what is being learned [14], and a process that is not just about learning technical facts, but also learning about other aspects of the technologies integration into society [15], this paper examines the design and evolution of several CCS demonstration projects.

This social learning perspective relates to the literature on technology demonstration focusing on demonstration events as interactions between demonstrators and audiences, often with a focus on demonstrators convincing audiences about the properties of the technology - and the active role of audiences in establishing agreement or disagreement about these properties [8, 11, 12]. The multiple audiences of CCS demonstration projects include: local residents, governments, the media, NGOs, as well as the professional CCS community. The social and political context within which demonstration projects are conceptualized, designed and implemented influences how and what learning takes place.

Throughout the development of a demonstration project, from its initial conceptualization, to its design, to its implementation, the framing of the purpose, structure and potential learning of the initiative integrates assumptions that reflect the social and political context within which the technology is developing. In the case of CCS, examples of such assumptions include, for example, the necessity to mitigate climate change, the need to sustain centralized and large scale electricity supply, the inevitability of continued use of coal, the need for governments to provide financial support for technology innovation, and the trustworthiness of CCS experts [16].

The concept of framing has been used to analyse the ways in which such assumptions about things beyond the immediate artefact (technical system) demonstrated are implicated in technology demonstrations [17]. There is no consensus on a single definition of frame and multiple definitions are proposed reflecting various contexts. We adopt the one proposed by Gitlin [18, p. 6] which is one of the most common citations in the field of framing analysis: "Frames are principles of selection, emphasis and presentation composed of little tacit theories about what exists, what happens, and what matters." Framing is here understood to be a strategic (explicit and intentional) action, on behalf of demonstrators or other stakeholders, in the pursuit of their interests (see also [19]). Moreover, the framing may or may not be successful in terms of being adopted by other actors and need not be persistent (cf. [20]).

Framing is particularly important in considering learning because framing guides and delimits what gets learned and by whom. The framing of a CCS demonstration project may change over time, but the initial framing will have a big impact on how the project is designed and how and what types of learning occur.

3. Methodology

This research involves a comparative analysis of the structure, framing and contexts of three CCS demonstration projects. The criteria used to select the CCS demonstration projects included: 1) strong industry involvement; 2) some degree of public engagement, and 3) national-level government involvement and support. Based on these criteria and a desire for geographic distribution, the three projects selected were the FutureGen project in the USA, the Longannet project in the UK and the Yubari project in Japan. Data collection sought to include perspectives of different project stakeholders, including those involved in the project as well as actors external to the projects. Information on each demonstration project was integrated from available documents (both published and unpublished) as well as semi-structured interviews with individuals involved in the respective demonstration projects that took place between September 2009 and August 2010. Two of the three projects continue to evolve so the comparative assessment made in this analysis is based on observations made prior to September 2010.

4. Three Demonstration Projects

The three demonstration projects represent the diverse nature of CCS demonstration activities, spanning variety in multiple dimensions including technology, scale, public engagement, and status of the project. The FutureGen case is an example of a public-private partnership where industry has been willing to invest because of a large government funding commitment. The Longannet case is an industry-led investment project, initiated in response to a government competition for funding. While both of these cases include elements of R&D alongside large scale integrated projects, the smaller scale Yubari case is closer to a pure R&D project, with no immediate plans for larger-scale investment. A summary of key

characteristics of these three projects is presented in Table 1. More empirical details on these three demonstration projects are included in the following reference [21].

Table 1 Comparison of Three Projects

FutureGen Longannet Yubari

New build/retrofit New build Retrofit (no connection to actual power plant)

Capture technology Pre-combustion Post-combustion (chemical absorption) Post-combustion (chemical absorption)

Storage option Saline aquifer Depleted gas field ECBM

Integration Yes Yes No

Scale Large Large Small

Stage Site has been purchased. Funding not clear. FEED starting. Project completed

R&D <-> demonstration Plans for capture R&D. Capture R&D ongoing in parallel. RD&D, but no large scale demonstration.

FutureGen is a major CCS demonstration project in the USA which is a public-private partnership between the US Department of Energy and the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, Inc., a non-profit consortium of some of the world's largest coal and energy companies. The project was officially announced in February 2003 as the flagship program for the Bush Administration's strategy on clean-coal technology development and climate change mitigation. FutureGen was initially designed as a near-zero emissions, commercial scale (275 MW) power plant simultaneously demonstrating CCS, hydrogen production and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) [22]. An extensive competitive site selection process occurred throughout 2006 and 2007, during which twelve potential sites were narrowed down to 4 semi-finalists: 2 in Texas and 2 in Illinois. Both Texas and Illinois invested in competing for the project by providing technical justification for why their state should be selected, and through public engagement initiatives to raise awareness and acceptance about the project's potential benefits. In 2008, Mattoon, Illinois was selected, and the site was purchased in summer 2009. In 2008 the Bush administration announced a "restructuring" of the project from a research demonstration program to a 'near term commercial demonstration' program as a more cost-effective way to advance CCS. Following this restructuring, in the summer of 2009 the Obama administration announced a revival and continued government support for the initial conceptualization of the project, but then in August 2010 the DoE announced another change: to demonstrate oxyfuel combustion in a nearby existing power plant rather than building a new plant. Responding to this change, the community of Mattoon, IL pulled out of the project disappointed in not getting a new power plant.

The Longannet CCS demonstration project in Central Scotland involves retrofitting CCS onto a coal-fired, subcritical power plant. The project involves using amine post-combustion capture and offshore storage in a depleted gas field in the North Sea a few hundred km from the power plant. The power plant belongs to the utility Scottish Power (SP), which is operating in the UK and owned by Spanish Iberdrola. SP is leading a consortium of firms, including also capture suppliers and offshore companies. The project is in the planning stage, and is one of two projects currently competing for UK government funding to support one CCS facility. Government funds will support a facility processing flue gasses from the equivalent of 300 MW of power production, - a fraction of the 2,400 MW Longannet plant. The competition for government funding was launched in 2007, and the objective is to have an operating plant in 2014. The project includes learning internally within the consortium, and some of the partners are involved in other projects abroad. The project has also involved learning about stakeholder engagement from other CCS demonstrations. The emphasis on knowledge sharing in the competition for government funds has increased over time. The project has not been seriously contested so far, and involves an

alignment of the different interests of industry, local and national policy makers. It is supported by some NGOs in part because the project does not involve building a new coal-fired plant.

The Yubari project, which ran from 2001 to 2008, had the ultimate goal of establishing a comprehensive, economically feasible system of Enhanced Coal Bed Methane Recovery (ECBM) via CCS in Japan, and was comprised of multiple, integrated RD&D tasks. It was the first project to actually verify the feasibility of ECBM in Japan. Despite the ambition stated above, the project was designed as only a first step towards realizing ECBM-CCS: the main components were a field test of ECBM where a total of 883.2t of CO2 was injected, and environmental monitoring conducted to detect any leakage of the injected CO2. The project was funded by the government (Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry) totalling about 17 million US$ of which 80% was allocated for the ECBM field testing. Diverse actors were involved (the Japanese government, private companies, government-related organizations and research institutes, universities, and a non-governmental research organization). There were some public outreach activities and the project was subject to an official evaluation process (mid-term and ex-post) by an external committee with technical experts. There were no protests by the neighbourhood communities against the project and external actors such as Japanese environmental NGOs seem to have had no particular interest in this project. Summing up the learning process, the project enhanced both the CO2 injection and CH4 production rates through technical learning. Regarding learning in other aspects, in response to the advice of the external evaluation committee, changes to the institutional structure of the project were made and indicative numerical targets on CO2 injection and CH4 recovery were set..

5. Analysis

5.1. Social learning

In all three cases, as with most CCS demonstration projects worldwide, academia and research institutions are working with private companies. Key differences regarding who is learning are in two areas: 1) the relationship between industry and government and 2) the involvement of civil society. The Longannet case has been characterized by an arm's length relationship between the project companies and the government during the competition for funding. In contrast, in the other cases there is close collaboration between government and industry, and the projects are organized as public-private partnerships. The Longannet and FutureGen cases involve quite extensive engagement with civil society: local communities, NGOs and media. With FutureGen the competitive selection process mobilized extensive outreach and education campaigns at multiple levels and locations. In the Yubari case, minimal outreach to the local community was coupled with largely one-way communication; a generally closed project with little interaction with the wider society. The Yubari case involves the least international exchange. In both the FutureGen and Longannet cases international exchange of information is planned, and the projects themselves have been conceptualized based on international strategy. With both of these cases some international learning has already occurred through the participation of multi-national companies.

The three cases differ in their relative focus on what is being learnt: purely technical learning versus broader social learning going beyond technical performance and cost. The goals of both FutureGen and Longannet integrate broader social dimensions including for example public acceptance and development of regulation, while the Yubari case is more narrowly focused on technical learning. This reflects the almost exclusive orientation towards R&D of the Yubari project, but also a more technocratic model of governance in Japan where civil society input is not generally given much value: as Joseph Wayne Smith puts it, in the Japanese model of technocracy, "the political process is completely degraded into a form of scientific management of public opinion" ([23], p. 2). More engagement with civil society, as in the other two cases, would likely have required a less technical framing, and a broader scope for learning. Each of these cases exhibit learning from other, earlier CCS projects, but given the limited number of completed CCS demonstration projects worldwide [3], the scope for this has been limited. In the FutureGen case, the extensive learning that has occurred in the US Carbon Sequestration Regional Partnerships over the past 5+ years has had some direct and indirect impacts on the current design and structure of the FutureGen

project. Both the FutureGen and Longannet projects both have ambitious plans for sharing the knowledge produced in the demonstration projects, and both explicitly integrate learning about and applying knowledge sharing from other CCS projects.

5.2. Factors shaping social learning

The way support was built around the projects has varied. Controversy surrounding the Longannet and Yubari cases has been minimal, but with the uncertainty and multiple changes in government planning and support for the FutureGen case some public opposition has been experienced. Public opposition has played a role in the cancellation of other proposed CCS demonstration projects including the Vattenfall storage projects in Denmark and Germany [24], and Shell's and Exxon Mobil's storage project in Rotterdam [25]. In each of the three demonstration projects explored here, alignment of interests of various different stakeholders was apparent, and opposition was negligible. In FutureGen recent public opposition to the project, manifested in the August 2010 decision by the community of Mattoon IL to withdraw from the project, suggests that public acceptance of CCS projects is often associated with perceived economic benefits. Once plans for the power plant in Mattoon were cancelled, the community no longer wanted to host a CCS geologic storage project.

Initial alignment of interests seems to have been constructed in somewhat different ways across the three cases. With FutureGen, close collaboration and co-dependency of private and public stakeholders throughout the project development process seems to have been created. This alliance cracked around the issue of rising costs, but with growing recognition and increasing levels of support for energy technology innovation in the USA, the current government seems committed to addressing the cost issues and trying to move the project forward despite the large and rising price tag. In the Longannet case, consensus was achieved as an alliance of rather different interests. Multiple framings were aligned in support of the project. Specifically, it is clear that the NGO supporting the project did so for different reasons to industry and government. In the Yubari case, alignment of interests was facilitated through the shared technocratic worldview among the participants, which also means that the actors who do not share such view, such as neighborhood communities, were not considered relevant stakeholders and were not involved. The way in which interests have aligned in each of these projects thus relates to framing and early learning about how projects are planned and designed, which shapes the subsequent learning process by determining whose concerns are taken into account.

The discourse surrounding these projects appears to have been dominated by two frames: the potential value of learning about CCS as an important climate mitigation technology and expectations of potential economic benefits associated with the projects. Difference among the cases emerges, however, in terms of the emphasis on who is to benefit economically. The framing of the FutureGen project emphasizes the benefits to the local economy, to the state of Illinois, and also potential economic benefits at the national level associated with the USA being a technological leader. This framing contributed to and drew from plans for sharing of all knowledge acquired. The emphasis is on technological advances, indirectly and over time leading to economic gains. Additionally, the site competition brought an emphasis on local and state level benefits, in the form of jobs in the near term. Increasing projected costs led to a restructuring and re-focusing of the FutureGen project, including a shift from research demonstration to near term commercial demonstration. The Yubari project is framed as contributing to national and industrial benefits, with little attention to any local benefits. As with FutureGen, the focus is primarily on technological benefits, leading to economic gains over time. The focus on costs and revenues increased marginally over the time of the project. The Longannet project started out being almost entirely about national competitiveness and industry gains, initially stressing the role of IP protection on behalf of the industry consortium winning the competition for funding. During the competition process, the emphasis on knowledge sharing has increased somewhat. Locally, the project has also attracted support because of its potential contribution to the economy.

Each of the three cases was associated with high hopes for national benefit and commercial returns on the projects, either in the near or distant future. The levels of government subsidies for each project were high, ranging from 50 to 100%, which influenced the social learning in several ways. The governance

contexts also show some clear differences. In the FutureGen and Longannet cases, the government support is distributed in the form of competitions between projects/sites. In the Longannet case, the competition limited knowledge sharing, but simultaneously, being part of a government competition helped raise the profile of the project and attracted collaboration interest. With FutureGen, competitions also resulted in state-level investment in education, raising awareness and learning at multiple locations. The close collaboration between industry and government, and the absence of actual open competition for funding in the Yubari case, reflects a more technocratic model of governance limiting the social learning to limited, one-way exchange of information with civil society. These examples show that the way demonstration is designed, structured, and organized has strong implications for the learning that occurs. Different forms of governance and government coordination are clearly important, and raise multiple issues including the balance between protecting intellectual property rights versus free knowledge sharing. Moreover, the role of and engagement with civil society influences the extent and type of social learning associated with a project. Technocracy is perhaps the least favorable mode of governance for a broad social learning process.

6. Conclusions

This paper explores social and political aspects of the learning processes related to CCS demonstration projects by comparing three different cases. The comparative analysis has explored how major differences in the framing of the projects and key socio-political factors impact the social learning associated with CCS demonstration projects. This analysis has enabled the initial development of a conceptual framework for considering the factors that influence social learning in CCS demonstration projects. The analysis suggests that these factors include: the way in which alignment of interests is achieved, mechanisms for communication among stakeholders, the project framing, governance structures, and the national contexts within which the projects are designed and implemented.

This analysis highlights a broader range of actors and types of knowledge than is typically considered, and confirms the need for more attention to be paid to the different types of learning that take place in current plans for CCS demonstration projects (e.g. [7]). Integrating consideration of these factors into planning, design and implementation of projects is likely to enhance the social learning in CCS demonstration projects. This conceptual framework could be applied and further developed by comparing demonstration projects for assessing whether learning in CCS demonstrations are designed effectively to deliver on policy expectations.

Given recent public protests against CO2 storage projects in the Netherlands [26], Germany, Denmark, and USA it is interesting to note the civil society support for the three projects and the absence of dispute or public opposition. Minimal learning about confronting and delivering public opposition occurred. Support was achieved in different ways in the three projects, and the influence of local publics, ENGOs, and the private and public sectors varied. Additional case studies, particularly those where serious opposition has emerged, would provide more insights.


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