Legal and social framework for geological storage

Carbon dioxide geological storage currently suffers from a lack of a regulatory framework, especially in the case of onshore operations.

Appropriate legislation applying to long-term storage has yet to be defined. This situation slows down the deployment of CCS and has to be clarified.

Onshore, existing regulations which can be applied to geological storage vary from country to country and generally are not defined for CO2 geological storage as such.

The only case which does not require a new regulatory framework is CO2 injection in hydrocarbon reservoirs for EOR.

In all other cases, existing legislation needs to be adapted unless new specific rules are adopted, in order to take into account CO2 geological storage.

Offshore, underground storage is regulated by the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) Convention, which defines general rules, the London Convention (Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, signed in 1972), which deals with the protection of the marine environment and the OSPAR Convention (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Northeast Atlantic, 1992).

The purpose of these treaties was to protect the marine ecosystem from possible pollution and they were not specifically taking into account the storage of CO2.

In 2006, an amendment of the London Convention now allows CO2 injection in underground reservoirs offshore subject to certain conditions concerning implementation [93].

At the European level, various actions are under way in order to prepare the future directives which will come into effect to authorise geological storage projects.

Carbon dioxide geological storage is not yet taken into account in the carbon trading mechanisms, whereas it seems a prerequisite for its future development.

This issue is actively discussed within the different competent institutions which are involved, especially within the United Nations (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCC) and within the European Commission.

Beyond any regulation that might be put in place, a large scale deployment of CO2 underground storage requires public acceptance from people living nearby. This implies the need to carry out investigations to ensure the complete safety and reliability of underground storage. Good information and dialogue with local communities are also needed.

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