10.2 Public engagement success factors

There is a wealth of public engagement-related resources designed to support CCS project proponents and other interested stakeholders with the design and implementation of a CCS engagement and communication strategy (Ashworth et al. 2010a, Ashworth et al. 2011, European CCS Demonstration Project Network 2012, NETL 2009, CATO-2 2008 and WRI 2010).

Through collaborations with CCS demonstration projects, CSIRO, and a network of international social researchers, the Global CCS Institute’s knowledge platform now contains over 50 different public engagement and communication knowledge products – including an internationally trialled and peer-reviewed toolkit with supporting resources (Ashworth et al. 2010a, Ashworth et al. 2011, Wade and Greenberg 2011 and Bradbury et al. 2011).

Encouragingly, respondents to the 2012 project survey indicated a strong uptake of the available international resources, in support of their existing in-house and project-specific guidelines. The gradual release of early demonstration project lessons and experience is helping to improve the relevance of public engagement best practice and guidance.

Researchers, such as the European-funded Site. Char group (SiteChar 2011), are now beginning to monitor and report on projects as they deploy these best practice guides, capturing lessons that will improve processes and fast-track learning for future project proponents.

By consolidating the best current social research with the experiences and emerging lessons from early CCS demonstrations, it is possible to identify a number of factors common to projects with successful public engagement programs (Table 20).

TABLE 20 Public engagement and communication: common success factors

Shared vision Alignment and shared vision across key government bodies (national, state, local) and development teamsFrom case studies like Barendrecht, Jänschwalde, and the Carson Project in California, examples are seen of misalignment between different levels of government proving exceptionally difficult for projects. Visible conflict at these levels erodes public confidence and provides a gap to be filled by groups with inaccurate, but well-articulated and damaging views on CCS. At the same time, the majority of Canadian projects have benefitted from tightly aligned and supportive provincial, state, and federal governments and partnership with the US Government.This need for alignment is not exclusive to governments. CCS projects with a consortium of partners have emphasised the importance of all parties presenting consistent, unified messages on the need for, and description of, a CCS project (including the funding bodies and governments involved) and of presenting CCS as a ‘complete chain’ solution to avoid detractors being able to break it down and challenge its constituent parts.
Core communications function Communication/engagement experts embedded in project team from project outsetSuccessfully deployed projects have almost always integrated communication and engagement expertise into the earliest project plans to ensure that, along with technical details, social, economic, and political factors are adequately represented when important decisions are being made.
Social context considered Social context genuinely considered during project site selection and throughout the project’s design and implementation phasesProjects invest large resources, in time and money, into selecting a site based on geologic and technical suitability. Often these selections do not adequately consider the social context of the site. For example, in Barendrecht, although the location was deemed suitable to address technical aspects of the project, it became apparent after the project location was announced that consideration of the possible social constraints had not been factored into the choice of the onshore storage site (ECN 2010).
Early engagement Time and effort invested at the outset of a project to interact with, and truly understand, stakeholdersThe timing of a project’s community engagement has been shown to have a decisive influence on the acceptance of a project. Early engagement with local affected communities, regulators, interested academics, environmental NGO groups, local councils, industry bodies, etchas emerged as the best approach to facilitate meaningful participation and to instil a sense of empowerment within the community (Ashworth et al. 2010a).
Targeted framing and messaging Carefully considered and targeted messaging or framing of the projectBoth what and howmessages are communicated will have a significant impact on the way a project is perceived and ultimately deployed.Project messaging and stakeholder mapping must also be flexible and evolve and adapt as times, perceptions, and demands change.

“It is important to recognise that a project’s stakeholder list will change and grow as the project progresses. It is essential to continually analyse input and information to identify additional stakeholders who should be engaged.”

Tenaska Trailblazer, Texas (Tenaska 2010, p6).

Flexible project implementation strategy Having the ability to adapt solutions to meet stakeholder concernsFlexibility in project implementation, whether allowing time for informal discussions before project announcements, or identifying multiple options for storage or pipeline sites, provides greater opportunity to involve community stakeholders in some project decision making (Ashworth et al. 2010b).

“At Quest, we demonstrated our commitment to responding to community input by making a total of 30 changes to our initial pipeline route in order to take account of community feedback. Upfront community consultation had tangible benefits for our project, with mostly positive responses from the community during our public hearing.”

Len Heckel, Business Opportunity Manager, Shell Canada Energy, Quest project, Canada.

This can be a difficult process to manage and requires close integration between technical, project management, and engagement staff. However there is strong evidence from CCS projects and other analogous industries that where stakeholders can be involved in some decision-making processes and can see the impact their involvement has had on project outcomes, trusting partnerships begin to emerge and are usually highly fruitful (Bradbury et al. 2011).Even if design flexibility is difficult, it is important that all decision-making processes and timelines are still made explicit to stakeholders to elicit trust in the transparency of the decision-making processes.

Note: Listed success factors are adapted from Ashworth et al. (2010a).