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Netherlands Protest Against Planned Shell Carbon Storage project

The Dutch government aims to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions by developing Carbon Capture Storage or CCS. Royal Dutch Shell has plans to take on this government project but is delayed because of opposition from locals in the town of Barendrecht, a suburb of Rotterdam.

Barendrecht residents are living on top of a depleted gas field. And Royal Dutch Shell plans to use the town as storage for carbon emissions from the nearby oil refinery of Pernis. Locals are worried because the government failed to reassure them that they are safe from leaks or potential explosions.

[Unidentified Resident]:
“People who don’t live here say it’s not dangerous, but these people don’t live here. The big question is of course, what if you live close by? What would you think about it then?”

[Edith Kolijn, Resident]:
“Very little is known about this and I have the impression that they are using us as a sort of ‘experiment garden’ and I don’t really like it. I would rather that they do this in an unpopulated area or at sea, where there are also gas fields and I really don’t like the idea that it is under our houses.”

A major issue is that the technology has not been tested and the town is an experiment for future projects.

[Simon Zuurbier, Barendrecht Alderman]:
“Shell is calling it a demonstration project. We think it’s a trial. And with a trial in the end, things can go different than based and expected on model calculations….Why should you take that risk, an eternal risk – because we are talking about eternal storage? Why should you take that risk in a dense populated area?”

However, others believe that there is nothing to fear.

[Eric Drosin, Spokesman, Zero Emissions Program]:
“….. We are not testing it on people. And that’s important. People have valid fears. They have every right to ask: ‘how does this work’, ‘will it be safe’, ‘is there any risk that we run’? So what we know from these many decades of experience is that the technology does work. That CO2 can be safely and permanently stored and you have to remember the EU has legislation in place that demands that CO2 is stored safely and permanently.”

The Dutch government has set a target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2020, partly by developing carbon storage or CCS.  If the Barendrecht protest were to spread to the rest of the Netherlands, then the government may not reach its target.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a pioneering technology which involves trapping carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes, such as power generation from fossil fuels, and piping them underground or offshore below the seabed.

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