London Protocol Parties met in London for their annual meeting with Parties to the London Convention, from 7 to 11 October, when they adopted a resolution to allow provisional application of an amendment to article 6 of the Protocol to allow sub-seabed geological formations for carbon capture and storage projects to be shared across national boundaries.
The London Protocol has, since 2006 established a basis in international environmental law to allow CO2 storage beneath the seabed when it is safe to do so. The base also helps to regulate the injection of CO2 waste streams into sub-seabed geological formations for permanent isolation.
The 2009 amendment adopted by Parties to the London Protocol allows for sub-seabed geological formations for carbon capture and storage projects to be shared across national boundaries. This allows CO2 streams to be exported for CCS purposes. Nevertheless, the 2009 amendment has not entered into force yet.
The resolution to allow provisional application of the 2009 amendment as an interim solution, waiting for sufficient acceptance by Contracting Parties, enables countries who want to do so, to apply the provisions of the amendment before the entry into force. In order to do this, the relevant Parties must deposit a declaration of provisional application, as well as notification of any agreements or arrangements with the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
"An important point to note is that reduction of CO2 emissions at source should be the primary focus, and provisional application of the amendment should not be seen as a substitute for other measures to reduce CO2 emissions. Carbon sequestration can be considered as one of a portfolio of options to reduce levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and can be an important interim solution in the fight against climate change."
stated Fredrik Haag, Head, Office for the London Convention and Protocol and Ocean Affairs, IMO
How does carbon capture and storage work?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) capture CO2 emissions at source, which are then injected in carefully selected sub-seabed rock formations, typically a few kilometres below the sea floor. Depleted oil and gas fields, for example, can facilitate a permanent storage for CO2 waste. The technique may be appropriate for large single point CO2 emission sources, like power stations, chemical and cement plants and steelworks.
How does the London Protocol related to CCS?
The London Protocol creates a framework for Parties to prevent pollution of the sea due to dumping or incineration at sea of wastes and other matter, and by activities including carbon capture and storage in sub-seabed geological formations and marine geoengineering activities, such as ocean fertilization.
The London Protocol takes a precautionary approach and bans all dumping of wastes at sea, except for those on a list of wastes that may be considered. However, any wastes on the list must be analyzed and receive a permit before being dumped at sea.
Adopted in 1996, the London Protocol aims modernize and eventually replace its forerunner, the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Convention).
It is considered as one of the key pillars of marine environment protection, along with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Regional Seas Conventions. Its objectives aspire to protect and preserve the marine environment from all sources of pollution.