Tomakomai and the CCS demonstration

This week is a short visit to Tomakomai, on the southern side of Hokkaido, where preparations are currently underway for Japan’s first integrated CCS (carbon dioxide capture and storage) development. I have been working on CCS for the past three years, so after a fortnight learning about radiation it was strange to be back on more familiar territory again.


One of the positive side-effects of the massive disconnect between the places where decisions about energy are made, and the places in which infrastructure is built and communities feel the effects most strongly, is that fieldwork takes you to some fantastic places. If you’d never been to Japan before and came straight to Tomakomai, you’d be wondering what on earth is going on – because it is as far removed from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo you can get. In fact, the wide streets, spread-out buildings and freight railway running right through the city reminded me a bit of Calgary.

Seaweed drying out - caught by three old ladies who insisted on giving me some to take away.
Seaweed drying out – caught by three old ladies who insisted on giving me some to take away.

There is a lot of industrial infrastructure here, as well as a lot of evidence of different benefits and risks associated with the sea – marine traffic, a big rubbish tip, (very) small scale food collection, coastal erosion (?) and of course the ever-present risk of earthquakes and tsunamis. Perhaps here sub-seabed carbon dioxide storage fits in to this much bigger background map of risks associated with the sea – or is that what people in Iwaki thought before the nuclear accident?

Smoke and chimneys in the built environment
Smoke and chimneys in the built environment

Yesterday I also had to work on revising a paper, and in amongst all the industry and night business found this fantastic little cafe with food and jazz music playing away. It opened last week, so my timing was spot on. Also, strangely enough the main shopping street in Tomakomai has music being piped out constantly through speakers. It’s certainly a distinctive place.

1984 Magari Cafe, Tomakomai
1984 Magari Cafe, Tomakomai – bagels now approved by a hungry energy social scientist

Should any CCS folk (or energy folk more widely) find themselves in Japan, I’d definitely recommend a visit to Tomakomai – not just to see the demonstration project, but also to see a part of Japan totally different to what one might be led to expect.


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