Industry veteran returns to Trondheim

We profile Eirik Falck da Silva, our project coordinator

In our relatively young carbon capture and storage (CCS) industry, Eirik Falck da Silva, our project coordinator, can be considered a veteran.

Looking through ads for PhDs back home while working as a research scientist for Mitsubishi Chemicals in Japan, he settled on an opportunity to study carbon capture at his alma mater the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

“I started my PhD in 2001. So, I’ve been working in this field for more than 20 years and can call myself a veteran. I’ve seen the ups and downs,” says the chemical engineer who is leading CCUS Zen in his capacity as a team leader and research manager at SINTEF, the Norwegian applied research organisation.

It is Dr da Silva’s second stint at SINTEF. A solvents specialist, he first joined the research organisation in 2005 after completing his PhD which was on the selection of amines for CO2 absorption.

“We did a lot of work on solvent R & D in this first phase of when CCS was big, up to 2008 or 2009,” he says. “I didn’t enjoy science when there was no relevance to it. If it’s purely theory and no one cares about what I’m doing that’s not as appealing as having a sense that we’re achieving something here and if we’re successful then we are going to make something that works a bit better than before.”

Move to the private sector

He stayed until 2013 when, keen to help deploy new technologies, he moved to the private sector. He joined Shell’s R&D centre in Amsterdam in its Department of CO2 Abatement and Gas Separation where he was Program Manager, Gas Treating R & D.

“I worked on separation of CO2 from natural gas which is very similar to CCS technology,” he recalls. “I do enjoy seeing technology actually getting deployed. In the institute sector you are completely reliant on external funding. In the private sector you can go all the way from fundamental research to deploying something out in the field from inside the same company.”

After five years, in 2018 he jumped to Total - a move that also brought him back to Norway. He became a senior CO2 Capture Specialist leading development of the French group’s CO2 Capture R & D at Stavanger.

“I joined when Total was really escalating its efforts in CCS and recruiting a lot of people for the CCS team,” he says. “It was nice to join when it was very dynamic and funding new research opportunities.”

Return to SINTEF

But after two years he was contacted by SINTEF and asked if he wanted to be team leader for the same team from which he had originated in his home town of Trondheim.

“In SINTEF, I knew that as long as CCS was happening that if you wanted to stay in this field you could keep working on it,” he says. “It’s a great team, we have very good people, and nice research infrastructure. I enjoyed the private sector but there was a sense of coming home, taking responsibility for the team and trying to achieve good things together.”

A self-described “nerd”, outside of work Dr da Silva enjoys History and soccer, following the fortunes of Benfica, Lisbon – he is half Portuguese. He also has a collection of classic comic books: he likes to draw on the cover of Tintin’s adventure Destination Moon in his presentations. This is a reference to the Norwegian government’s comparison of its funding and support for CCS with a moon walk.

In terms of research, as a team leader, he no longer does in-depth science himself. He leaves that to the 23 members of his team, more than half of whom are working on solvent capture.

“The team is researching solvents. I no longer have time to do in-depth research but what I very much enjoy doing is attending meetings with the researchers and discussing what we should prioritise and contributing on technical subjects,” he says.