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Environmental gas management research infrastructure

Final Report Summary - ENGAS (Environmental gas management research infrastructure)

The ENGAS RI project has had as an objective to open the laboratories to a larger European research community as to enhance science by international collaboration and cross-disciplinarity. Through granting qualified scientists access to a wide range of experimental gas facilities not within their reach, either for economic or geographical reasons, new scientific opportunities have been created. An integrated complex of 14 outstanding laboratories for focused and trans-boundary research within the field of environmental gas management were made available. These laboratories are designed to solve problems related to reducing emissions in the whole technology chain from energy source to end-user. The laboratories have been utilised successfully in bringing forward new innovative technology and solutions together with global industrial partners.

The ENGAS laboratory structure is based upon a long-term goal to establish clean electricity and hydrogen as main energy carriers in the future. Regarding the transnational access activities, the daily running of the project was managed by the ENGAS secretariat, whereas the scientific support and guidance of the access projects was performed by a steering committee. In order to secure a smooth running of the infrastructure and of the individual projects, the committee met approximately twice a year for coordination and internal communication purposes.

An ENGAS user selection procedure was defined at the start of the contract, supported by a standard application form, an evaluation form and a set of assessment criteria. A two-stage selection consisted of an evaluation of the feasibility of the proposed experiments by the facility providers, followed by a scientific assessment performed by at least two members of the user selection panel. After two years of operating with fixed calls for proposals, an open call was adopted. This change stimulated a more continuous flow of applicants, allowing researchers to apply whenever it was most suitable. Acceptance of an application required a positive evaluation of a majority of the panel members. In case of equal marks, secondary criteria were used for prioritisation, i.e. number of female group members and first time users. In total, 33 proposals were received. Of those, 27 were approved, corresponding to a success rate of 82 %. In total, 27 user groups accessed the ENGAS research infrastructure during the entire project period. This corresponded to 35 users from 13 countries, having used the available facilities for 715 access days.

The development of environmental methods to produce, store and transport different energy sources is becoming increasingly important as evidence of global warming a shown at an increasing pace. Only international collaboration on a high scientific level can advance the sector forward into the desired direction. Cooperation with and training of researchers in experimental gas research across the European Community is crucial in order to strengthen Europe's position in looking for knowledge-based solutions to the climatic challenges the world is facing. The availability of highly specialised laboratory to users not normally having access to these kind of facilities in their home country was explicitly emphasised by many users as an important reason for using the opportunity offered by the ENGAS project. A special contribution to a further integration of new EU Member States was obtained through providing access to users coming from countries such as Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland and Turkey.

A large majority of the users had never used the facilities at ENGAS earlier, indicating that the contribution of the European Commission had a decisive role in the promoting of experimental research on greenhouse gasses in Europe.

In total, researchers from 14 different countries came to Trondheim for a period of 4 up to 49 days to perform tests at one of the ENGAS laboratories. After amendment of the contract in 2007, it was anticipated that 10 out of the 14 different laboratories would be accessed by 29 user groups. In reality, the total number of access days to be provided was achieved by 27 groups using in total 9 facilities. Hence, there was only a limited discrepancy between estimated and actual access. The large variety of laboratories offered was clearly appreciated by the European research community, which was given the chance to select the facility that was answering best to its needs.

The participation of female users was stimulated through inviting in particular women to apply for access, and through using the share of female group members as a criterion for selection. The gender balance in the 27 access projects performed was 29 male against 6 female researchers, corresponding to a female representation of about 17 %. This was somewhat under the preset expectations, but is nevertheless experienced as a satisfactory result as the target group is a clearly male dominated energy research community. It is, therefore, believed that the ENGAS research infrastructure has contributed to making a research career in the field of gas technology more attractive, in particular to female and young scientists. Due to a late start of the access activities in the first reporting period, combined with applications arriving late in the fourth reporting period, an extension of the contract to five years was applied for and granted by the European Commission. The additional time allowed the contractor to fulfil its obligations towards the European Commission regarding the quantity of access provided.

Along with the start of the ENGAS activities, four European Integrated Projects (IPs) were initiated at NTNU / SINTEF dealing with related research fields. This strengthened the international profile of the research infrastructure even more and further reinforced the dynamism and quality of the scientific environment that was offered to the visiting researchers.