Secondments at the IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D (IEAGHG) Programme and the IEA Clean Coal Centre (IEACCC)

By Karl McAlinden; GERC affiliated PhD student at The University of Nottingham

As any doctoral researcher will know, the final writing phase of a PhD project can often be an isolating experience, especially as you try to interpret your data, determine what is important and figure out how your findings can make that small research contribution and/or a wider societal impact. Having found myself in this situation, I wanted to make the most of the opportunities a PhD provides and hoped to place my research within a real world context. With support from the GeoEnergy Research Centre (GERC) Early Career Researchers Development Fund (ECRDF), I undertook two short secondments at the IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D (IEAGHG) programme, in Cheltenham, and the IEA Clean Coal Centre (IEACCC), in London.

Through carrying out my field work in China and additional research and training activities in the UK, US and Australia, I would quite often hear of key figures from these two organisations, of the work they do and the impacts they have had on the CCUS community’s attitudes towards and adoption of CCUS technologies. Closely related to my PhD research, I hoped to learn more about the work they do in promoting CCUS-related research, in providing neutral CCUS-related information, and in organising CCUS-related activities both in China and globally. Having previously attended IEA events in Australia, China, Switzerland and the UK, I saw great value both academically and professionally in spending a period of time at their respective offices. With this in mind, I discussed my intent with both supervisors and secondment hosts, it was my hope that during my time at these organisations, I would not only learn more about the work they do from an insider perspective but would put my research into a more professional context.

Completing interviews with staff at both organisations to supplement my thesis findings, I was not only surprised by their level of knowledge and degree of engagement with China but also the openness and honesty with which they spoke about the opportunities and challenges of international cooperation and development challenges of CCUS. As I shared my research results and findings and we discussed the past and future of CCUS in China, it was reassuring to know that we discovered common themes and that my research is not only of value to me as a student but also to practitioners working in the field. With individuals from both organisations working on Sino-international cooperation projects through the UK and EU governments and with other international partners, they have built long-standing relationships with China and their rich experiences will undoubtedly be a valuable resource for my thesis writing and further academic articles and papers. As I continue to write my thesis and move towards submission in September, at the same time, I am writing complementary pieces for both organisations which can help me lift my research from an individualistic academic endeavour to a real-world professional contribution.

Visiting the local Christmas market in Cheltenham

I would like to thank the team at IEAGHG for their kindness and warmth during my time in Cheltenham, for the small leaving party days before Christmas and for their advice on where and what to do in their city. Although I was based on the outskirts of the city, I did brave the wet weather and cold temperatures to visit the local Christmas market and famous Cheltenham race course. While my secondment at IEACCC continues until the end of February 2017, at this time, I would also like to thank Andrew Minchener and his team who are a fountain of knowledge on CCUS and other clean coal technologies and have an obviously deep and genuine interest in China and all things Chinese. It is my hope that the relationships I have built over these last few months will continue through my future academic and professional careers. Finally, I would like to thank GERC for providing a small amount of funding through the ECRDF, which allowed me this opportunity to enhance my research potential and to build upon my professional skills, as I move towards the completion of my thesis and professional employment.

The world famous Cheltenham race course - with classic British weather!

For those who may be interested in my PhD thesis on “International Diffusion and Domestic Development in the Adoption of Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) by the People’s Republic of China,” I aim to make my key research findings and final thesis available through GERC in the coming months. To contact me, please do so at:

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