Study defines critical elements of a CO2 storage enforcement regime

Effective regulatory enforcement is critical to building public and investor confidence in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, according to research released by HWL Ebsworth.

Reporting on research conducted throughout the first half of 2016, Effective enforcement of underground storage of carbon dioxide compares existing legislation for current geological storage activities. It also identifies additional legislative measures required to support permanent geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Commissioned by the Global CCS Institute, the study was undertaken by prominent Australian environmental lawyer, Dr Meredith Gibbs, as part of her Asia Pacific Fellowship with the Institute.

Dr Gibbs’ research assessed five legal jurisdictions including the Commonwealth of Australia, Victoria, Japan, Malaysia and China.

Within Asia Pacific, Australian and Japanese legislators have covered the most ground on developing effective enforcement regimes within their CCS-specific regulatory frameworks, under which projects may be progressed. China and Malaysia, while currently possessing a strong foundation of relevant environmental and energy legislation, have further opportunity to develop their CCS-specific legislation to help accelerate the deployment of domestic CCS projects.

The Institute’s acting global lead – policy, legal and regulation Ian Havercroft said the findings were particularly relevant for informing development of legislation in those countries where CCS is identified as a vital part of the low-carbon technology mix.

“Communities around the world want assurances from governments that CCS is safe and reliable. At the same time, project stakeholders need certainty about their obligations and the regulatory environment in which a project will be undertaken and operated,” he said.

“Likewise, regulators are looking for clear delineation of their responsibilities as they relate to CCS projects, and the powers available to them to ensure compliance by project operators.

“Effective enforcement regimes require a strong legislative framework that addresses the critical needs of these three different types of stakeholders. In this context, effective enforcement is critical to CCS progress the world over.

“Dr Gibbs’ research is, therefore, a valuable contribution to the growing body of legal knowledge that supports governments in developing pro-CCS policies, as part of an overall commitment to tackling climate change.”

Availability of safe, secure geological storage is an essential precursor for successful deployment of CCS, regardless of the source of emissions. Deep geological formations are already widely used for storing natural gas for domestic supplies, and the deep underground disposal of hazardous acid gas.

As a non-flammable gas, CO2 storage represents significantly lower risks than other established practices involving deep geological storage of gases.