Low Carbon Infrastructure Decommissioning Workshop

A workshop on the decommissioning and resource recovery of low-carbon energy infrastructure was held in Leeds on 16th January 2018. It was co-organised by the University of Leeds, Resource Recovery from Waste and Innovate UK, and attracted participants from academia, business, government and catapult organisations.

Decommissioning of nuclear and North Sea oil infrastructure has left taxpayers facing a bill of £300 billion or more. To avoid repeating history, our low-carbon infrastructures must be designed for durability, decommissioning and resource recovery. Meeting this challenge will require the development of disruptive new science, technology and industry business models in a sector where there is a distinct global need and development opportunities, but little expertise.

The workshop examined challenges for industry and research, discussed current best practice and gauged the demand for new solutions in this area. The outcomes are being used to shape a research programme led by the University of Leeds (E4LCID) and help Innovate UK understand the potential for industry-led innovation funding in this area under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The workshop kicked-off with three presentations:

Discussions were held to gain a greater insight into the sector-specific challenges in offshore wind, onshore wind, solar PV, and electric vehicles; followed by a session to identify cross-sectoral challenges.

The workshop identified eight research issues as being central to all stakeholders’ perception of the problems facing decommissioning of low-carbon infrastructure, including:

  • The need for methods to value materials factoring in co-benefits such as environmental and resource security benefits.
  • Developing the infrastructure necessary to extend the functional lifetime of components, decommission and recover resources .
  • An inventory of the materials present in current low-carbon infrastructure is needed to accurately estimate volumes and timing of material in- and out-flows, thereby enabling business development.
  • A better understanding is needed of the durability of the high-tech materials used in low-carbon infrastructure.
  • A way to analyse the whole system is needed, in order to balance trade offs between economic, social, technical and environmental costs and benefits.
  • There is an opportunity to develop the skills and expertise to make the UK a leader in this area.
  • Regulation will be required to drive the right behaviour, clarify ownership of the issues on decommissioning and resource recovery, and reduce risks.
  • The transformative potential impact – positive and negative – of new business models needs to be investigated.

The full workshop report detailing the day and all the findings in more detail is available here: Workshop proceedings on decommissioning low-carbon infrastructures (pdf).

University of Leeds will continue to co-produce and develop the E4LCID programme on low-carbon decommissioning and resource recovery. If you are interested in contributing to this process, please get in touch with Anne Velenturf.