Carbon Capture and Storage

In 2007, the OSPAR Commission took decisive action towards reducing the negative effects of climate change by adopting amendments to the Annexes of the Convention to allow the storage of carbon dioxide in geological formations under the seabed following OSPAR’s 2006 report on ocean acidification.

The report indicated that high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are changing ocean carbon chemistry at least 100 times faster than at any time in the last 100 000 years, as well as detailing technical aspects of CO2 capture and storage (CCS) in geological formations under the seabed. In association with the amendments to the Convention, OSPAR has adopted a Decision to ensure environmentally safe storage of carbon dioxide streams in geological formations and OSPAR Guidelines for Risk Assessment and Management of that activity. The Commission has also adopted a Decision to legally rule out placement of CO2 into the water-column of the sea and on the seabed, because of the potential negative effects.

The OSPAR Commission recognises CCS as one important pragmatic approach in the portfolio of measures to tackle the challenges of climate change and acidification. The OSPAR Commission also acknowledges the role of CO2 as the principal driver of climate change. Where very long-term storage is achievable, CCS may complement measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions at source.

However, OSPAR has also stressed that CCS is only part of a package of measures needed to reduce CO2 emissions, which should include conservation of energy (demand restraint), renewables and improved energy efficiency.

At present, the only operational CCS projects in the OSPAR Maritime Area are in Sleipner and Snohvit in Norway where the two plants funnel high content CO2 into a sub-sea ravine.