First workshop on legal and regulatory issues held

On May 2nd, CCUS Zen held the first workshop focused on legal and regulatory issues. The presentation focused on international and regional instruments with bearing on CCS operations. It was followed by workshop discussions with a focus on hubs and clusters related issues. The discussion elicited views and concerns, as well as potential steps forward to overcoming barriers. .

Key observations of the workshop presentation

International, regional and national legal frameworks form part of the starting point when identifying value chains. The presentation considered some of the international and regional instruments that are particularly relevant for the two regions, namely the London Convention and the London Protocol, the Barcelona Convention and the Helsinki Convention. These instruments are only applicable to offshore storage, not onshore. Thus, the presentation considered the implications these instruments have for offshore CCS operations. Regulatory aspects of onshore storage and “utilization” were outside the scope of this presentation, but will be examined in an upcoming white paper.

Summary of Discussions

The discussions covered topics ranging from the varying levels of regulatory readiness to specific conceptual challenges (e.g. ownership and liability). Regulatory readiness in various European regions was noted as highly divergent – including in some cases the outright regulatory prohibition of CCUS. Discussions focused on possibilities for taking political steps toward overcoming such barriers. Some noted that – also in countries that are in principle permissible to CCUS – there is a need for further refining regulation and processes including regarding permitting. Many highlighted that industry representatives needed to contribute to driving regulatory progress, while also ensuring this is done with public interest in mind to ensure broad public support – including by paying close attention to supportive and problematic narratives in the national public discourse. On the administrative side, some observed that confusion of institutional mandates and responsibilities could lead to significant delay, highlighting the need for early inter-agency coordination; the question was raised, whether guidance from the EU could help by providing an indicative timeline on how member states’ various agencies may need to be consulted at specific stages of planning for CCUS hubs and clusters. Key legal and conceptual questions were found in need of clarification – including through the development of clear cooperation agreements – among industry actors, including those revolving around the passing-through of ownership of CO2 as a commodity, corresponding credits or allowances, as well as the associated liabilities.

London Convention and Protocol

Some of the aforementioned instruments set out e.g., a detailed framework for storing CO2 in sub-seabed geological formations; criteria for cross-border transportation of CO2 for the purpose of storage; and regulates whether or not storage is permitted. As of today, the London Convention and the London Protocol represent the most advanced international regulatory instruments addressing the storage of CO2 in sub-seabed geological formations. While storage of CO2 was initially banned under the Protocol, the Protocol was amended in 2006 to allow for storage of CO2 in sub-seabed geological formation, simultaneously setting out criteria for this to occur. This created a legal basis in international environmental law to regulate storage of CO2 in sub-seabed geological formations. The London Protocol has since been amended to overcome another barrier – the export prohibition of article 6. The amendment is still not in force at the time of writing, and the Contracting Parties agreed to an interim solution of provisional application which became effective through the 2019 Resolution. Thus, Contracting Parties are now free to export CO2 for the purpose of storage in sub-seabed geological formations, provided that certain criteria have been met as set out in the London Protocol, the 2009 Amendment and the 2019 Resolution, which includes e.g., a bilateral agreement or arrangement.

There are four regional sea conventions in Europe. For the purpose of CCUS ZEN, the Helsinki Convention and Barcelona Convention are particularly relevant, covering the Baltic sea and the Mediterranean sea, respectively. These conventions are similar to the London Convention and Protocol, and seek to, among other things, prevent pollution of the convention areas caused by dumping of wastes or other matter.

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