Qatari Sustainable Energy Research; Opportunities and Challenges

By Mr John Williams; Geoscientist with the CO2 Storage team at the British Geological Survey

Last week on behalf of GERC I attended an EU-GCC Workshop on Opportunities and Challenges in Sustainable Energy Research in Doha, Qatar. Following the COP21 in Paris in December, GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries have committed towards developing a strong and long term investment in sustainable energy research and development. The workshop, organised by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) in collaboration with the European Commission, INCONET-GCC2 and the British Embassy to Qatar, aimed to present current research programmes in the EU and GCC, and to identify research collaboration models between EU and GCC countries. The focus of the workshop was on Carbon Capture and Storage and Utilisation (CCUS) and on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).

Having arrived in Doha on Sunday evening after a pleasant flight, and having met with colleagues from the University of Nottingham, we met the other delegates and were driven by bus to the Qatar Foundation Education City, where alongside Qatar University, a small-host of American Universities (including Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern and Texas A&M) have set-up branches. Interestingly, Qatar plans to develop a knowledge-based economy which will allow it to prosper once its rich natural-gas fields are depleted in decades to come. Research and technology therefore represents the long-term future of the Qatari economy, and at the heart of this is Qatar Foundation and the Education City. We began by visiting the Qatar Foundation office where they had a large model ’plan’ to demonstrate the ongoing development of the Education City, and we followed this with a visit to the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP). The QSTP helps to progress innovations developed by the academic institutions, providing an intuitive pathway from innovation to market. We were shown one of the facilities where different prototypes for solar power technologies were being tested. Although Qatar’s reputation as a research oasis is perhaps still in its infancy, there is no question that the scientific facilities in Qatar are world-class!
Tornado Tower, Doha (left building), site of the EU-GCC
Workshop on Opportunities and Challenges in Sustainable Energy Research

Following the visit we travelled to Tornado Tower in the centre of Doha where the meat and bones of the workshop was to take place. Following lunch and some furious networking activity the workshop began in earnest with a session on EC funding and European strategies on CCS and CSP. We then heard about research funding opportunities in the GCC from QNRF and the Masdar Institute. Following our exertions at the workshop we made our way to Souq Waqif in Doha’s cultural centre. Although not entirely genuine (the Souq has been largely restored), it was great to enjoy a meal in the fresh air (it being somewhat frosty in the UK at present), and we were able to walk around the market observing the quirky products on offer at the various stalls. It was difficult, but I refrained from purchasing a three foot tall shisha pipe!
The second day began by separating into two groups, the first dedicated to CSP and the second to CCUS. Naturally I was part of the CCUS group. We began with a series of short ten minute presentations on CCUS activities from the GCC participants. Amongst the industry participants, the focus in the GCC is very much on the potential for CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) to prolong the life of mature or tight oil fields. Although they will not be needing to deploy such methods for some time due to the scale of their oil reserves, they are keen to conduct preparatory research in this area and it will be interesting to watch the development as several CO2-EOR pilot projects are due to commence in the coming years. Following this first set of talks, it was then up to the European participants to give their contributions. We heard about several EC-funded projects, and I gave a talk on the CO2 storage research activities undertaken within GERC. I dedicated several minutes to describing the current state-of-play at the Geo-energy Test Bed at Sutton Bonington, and openly invited researchers to collaborate on research at the site. These talks were followed by a brainstorming session, where we divided into two groups, capture and storage, to discuss ideas for research and collaboration on CCS between the EU and GCC countries. Finally all workshop participants re-convened and the ‘brain-stormed’ ideas were presented to the group as a whole to close the meeting.
Overall it was fantastic to have had the opportunity to participate in the workshop on behalf of GERC, while Qatar itself was an intriguing place to visit. I’ve never before stayed at a hotel with its own entrance to a massive shopping mall! QNRF in conjunction with INCONET-GCC2 will be preparing a report on the workshop, so I would urge anyone with an interest in research collaboration with GCC countries on CCS (or CSP) to read it once released.

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