John Loughhead pics 001UKERC Executive Director John Loughead gives his thoughts on the recent Carbon Management Canada meeting in Calgary.


I’m fresh off the flight from Calgary – well not that fresh courtesy of British Airways’ statutory 3-hour delay for “operational reasons”. I was there for the annual conference and a Board meeting of Carbon Management Canada, an organisation similar in some ways to UKERC but with the focus its name implies.

If you don’t know the Province of Alberta is Canada’s energy capital, home of the tar sands and with high expectations of substantial shale reserves. Edmonton is the industrial centre and Calgary the political and business city.  Calgary is Boomtown writ large; the downtown area resembles Shanghai in the scale and ambition of redevelopment with the original two storey buildings being replaced by 50-storey office blocks. New housing is expanding rapidly across the plains. And it’s easy to see why: production of oil has doubled, associated services are following on, big business is already there – BP were holding their international Technology Advisory Board meeting at the same time as the conference – and there are jobs galore.

So, clearly a picture of aggressive pursuit of profit at any cost? Well that’s perhaps partly true but not as simple. The conference had nearly 300 participants, all focused on carbon abatement needs; the oil producers were all there presenting their own programmes; and academic researchers from across Canada came too. There was a consistent message that a solution for carbon had to be found, and if they didn’t do it who else would? And they do need a solution because a step outside and into the expensive brand-name stores or high-end restaurants shows how much there now is to lose if they cannot continue hydrocarbon exploitation.

There is a real sense Alberta sees this as a problem it will take the responsibility to solve – because everything depends on it. From the conference papers they are making real progress – one report was of demonstration of a CO2 capture system with costs of just $20/tonne – and there is certainly substantial research funding available. What is notable is the engagement of industry in support, both in finance and collaborative work, and the number of ex-pat Europeans who have moved to join the action.

Calgary is famous for the annual Stampede, originally a competition of frontier living skills. It’s become the largest fair and rodeo in North America, but perhaps now joined by another stampede of intellect and entrepreneurs. Lots of space, high living standards, just an hour from the amazing Rockies, and the belief they are going places. What’s not to like? Oh, and CMC are paying all costs for any Canadian student that can win a place at UKERC’s Summer School. Clearly an organisation of vision!

Professor John Loughhead is Executive Director at UKERC. Before joining UKERC, John was Corporate Vice-President of Technology and Intellectual Property at Alstom’s head office in Paris.