New international rules to allow storage of CO2 in seabed adopted

1st Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Protocol, 30 October - 3 November 2006

Storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) under the seabed will be allowed from 10 February 2007, under amendments to an international convention governing the dumping of wastes at sea.

Contracting Parties to the London Protocol, at their first meeting held in London from 30 October to 3 November, adopted amendments to the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention). The amendments regulate the sequestration of CO2 streams from CO2 capture processes in sub-seabed geological formations.

Parties also agreed that guidance on the means by which sub-seabed geological sequestration of carbon dioxide can be conducted should be developed as soon as possible. This will, when finalized, form an important part of the regulation of this activity. Arrangements have been made to ensure that this guidance will be considered for adoption at the 2nd Meeting of Contracting Parties in November 2007.

This means that a basis has been created in international environmental law to regulate carbon capture and storage (CCS) in sub-seabed geological formations, for permanent isolation, as part of a suite of measures to tackle the challenge of climate change and ocean acidification, including, first and foremost, the need to further develop low carbon forms of energy. In practice, this option would apply to large point sources of CO2 emissions, including power plants, steel and cement works.

The 1996 Protocol, which entered into force on 24 March 2006, takes a precautionary approach and prohibits the dumping of wastes at sea, except for certain substances, listed in the Annex I to the Protocol* . "CO2 streams from CO2capture processes" have now been added to the list.

The amendments, which will enter into force 100 days after adoption (i.e. on 10 February 2007), state that carbon dioxide streams may only be considered for dumping, if: disposal is into a sub-seabed geological formation; they consist overwhelmingly of carbon dioxide (they may contain incidental associated substances derived from the source material and the capture and sequestration processes used); and no wastes or other matter are added for the purpose of disposing of them.

The 1996 Protocol has currently been ratified by 29 countries and replaces the London Convention 1972 for those countries. The 1972 Convention has been ratified by 81 countries.

London Convention website:

The annex lists the following wastes or other matter which may be considered for dumping: 1 dredged material; 2 sewage sludge; 3 fish waste, or material resulting from industrial fish processing operations; 4 vessels and platforms or other man-made structures at sea; 5 inert, inorganic geological material; 6 organic material of natural origin; and 7 bulky items primarily comprising iron, steel, concrete and similarly unharmful materials for which the concern is physical impact, and limited to those circumstances where such wastes are generated at locations, such as small islands with isolated communities, having no practicable access to disposal options other than dumping.

Now added: 8 CO2 streams from CO2 capture processes.

Briefing 43, 8 November 2006

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