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Europe to Seize the Market in Carbon Capture

Sunday, May 06, 2007
Article Type: Cited

Legal changes would allow the UK and Norway to dominate the nascent CO2 storage industry by using the Atlantic sea bed. The observer Neasa MacErlean reports.

The last major regulatory hurdle for the capture and storage of CO2 emissions in Europe is expected to be cleared by the end of the year, when the law of the sea relating to the north-east Atlantic is expected to be amended to allow storage under the sea bed.

If it happens, it will open the way to a major new business market for the potential prime players in Europe - the UK and Norway - and could give them an edge over possible rivals in the US, where similar legal changes could be slower to arrive. The world market in CCS has been estimated at £150bn a year by Edinburgh University.

At the moment, storage under the sea is banned in the north-east Atlantic - one of the biggest potential sites in the world - but the Ospar Commission, the intergovernmental body that protects the sea in this region, is expected to lift the prohibition by the end of 2007. "Ospar is moving as fast as possible, but in a measured way," says its executive secretary, Professor David Johnson. A provisional date for the change is expected to be agreed this month and the European Commission and the 15 participating governments of Ospar will make the final decision in June.

The four governments with the most to gain - UK, Norway, France and the Netherlands - have proposed the change. A report from the UK and Norway concludes that CCS is "technically feasible" and could deal with up to 40 percent of carbon emissions by 2050. It says Europe has such significant storage capacity that it could cope with most of Europe's CO2 emissions for perhaps hundreds of years.

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