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Transboundary CCS makes further progress in that countries have agreed guidance on the responsibilities around export of CO2 for storage, so all safeguards are now in place for this activity to occur. But export of CO2 is still not permitted until sufficient countries have ratified the amendment, and the IMO Secretary-General expresses “serious concern” at the rate of ratification.

The annual meeting of the London Convention and London Protocol was held at the International Maritime Organisation in London from 14-18 October (LC35 and LP8).

The main issue for CCS is the topic of transboundary export of CO2 for geological storage. At the last annual meeting, the London Protocol adopted ‘Revised Specific Guidelines for the Assessment of CO2 for Disposal into Sub-seabed Geological Formations’. These have to be used by countries when issuing a permit for CO2 geological storage, and the revised version includes provision for the use of geological storage which crosses national boundaries. However there remained two significant transboundary aspects to be resolved.

The CCS amendment adopted in 2009 to allow export of CO2 for geological storage requires 2/3 of Parties to ratify before it comes into force. This currently means 29 countries need to ratify it. So far just two have (Norway and UK) and four others are working on it, so this looks like it will take a very long time, and in the meantime London Protocol countries cannot export their CO2 to another country for storage in the marine environment. Emphasis and concern on the rate of ratification was expressed by Mr. Koji Sekimizu, the IMO Secretary-General in his opening speech to the meeting.“The London Protocol currently is also the only global framework to regulate carbon capture and sequestration in sub-seabed geological formations……. However, it remains a serious concern that,to date, only two of the 43 London Protocol Parties have accepted the 2009 amendment, which is a long way from satisfying the entry-into-force requirements. The importance of securing its entry into force cannot be over-emphasized, if the threat of acidification of the oceans from climate change is to be minimized.”

The other transboundary aspect that remained to be resolved was the development of guidance to determine the responsibilities of Parties in the case of export of CO2, in particular if exported to a country that is not a party to the London Protocol. A working group on this has been led by Canada over the last year, and reached a conclusion at this meeting with a new document “Guidance on the Implementation of Article 6.2 on the Export of CO2 Streams for Disposal in Sub-seabed Geological Formations for the purpose of Sequestration”. This sets out the responsibilities of Parties and the requirements of the agreements and arrangements which must be entered into by Parties who wish to undertake export of CO2, including if to non-Parties, so as to ensure that the standard of requirements of the London Protocol on permitting CO2 geological storage are maintained. If these requirements are significantly breached then the Party is required to terminate the export.

This new guidance was approved on 18 October, for use when the export amendment comes into force.

The secretariat and host for the London Convention and the London Protocol is the International Maritime Organisation in London, an agency of the UN.

IEAGHG and IEA CCS Unit attend and contribute to the meetings, providing updates to plenary on their activities relevant to CCS in the marine environment and as participants in the CCS working group. Particular interest was shown in the IEAGHG’s Monitoring Network and Environmental Research Networks, including in the advances in offshore monitoring and understanding of environmental impacts. The London Convention meeting participants seem to appreciate the provision of such confidence-building technical information from IEAGHG, as well as the context-setting need-for-CCS information from the IEA CCS Unit.

Tim Dixon IEAGHG and Justine Garrett IEA, 18 October 2013