The Department of Energy is actively engaging in the concept of implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in South Africa, with a number of research projects currently being conducted with a view to initiating a test injection project in 2016, a demonstration project in 2020 and a commercial project in 2025, says Imbewu Sustainability Legal Specialists attorney Gillian Arenstein.
CCS is described as a process whereby carbon dioxide (CO2) is captured from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, compressed, and then transported to a selected long-term storage site, such as geological form-ations, ocean storage and industrial fixation into inorganic carbonates. The final stage results in long-term carbon sequestration or removal by injecting the CO2 into an appropriate CCS reservoir at an identified site.
Regulatory Framework Development
The South African government is in the initial stages of planning and developing a CCS regulatory framework or policy to allow for a more streamlined approach to the regulation of these projects.
Currently, South Africa does not have specific CCS legislation. However, that is not to say that there is not related legislation that would be applicable to CCS projects, states Arenstein.Under the current environ- mental legal regime, each phase of a CCS project, namely capture, transport, injection and storage, is likely to require a suite of environ-mental legal authorisations from the various levels of government, thereby requiring effective cooperative governance.
Arenstein adds that it is also important for international developments and obligations to be considered and incor- porated in the development process of a South African CCS regulatory framework or policy.
Of particular significance to the consideration of CCS projects in the South African context and in the process of developing a CCS-specific regulatory regime is the decision taken to adopt the modalities and procedure for CCS in geological formations in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The seventeenth Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Con-vention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties served as the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol, held in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011.
The modalities and procedures provide for requirements relating to eligibility, registration, monitoring, reporting and verification and the issuing of certified emission reductions of CCS projects.
More importantly, in the context of the development of a CCS-specific regulatory regime, the modalities require certain administrative and policy requirements to be met by the host country.
A party not included in Annexure 1 of the UNFCCC, such as South Africa, may only host a CCS project activity under the CDM if it has submitted an expression of agreement to the UNFCCC to allow for the implementation of CCS activities in its territory and has established laws or regulations which take a number of factors into consideration.
“In light of the fact that South Africa is currently in the process of developing a CCS regulatory framework or policy, it is crucial for the factors contained in the modalities to be considered and addressed where possible in the development of such a framework or policy,” says Arenstein.
The inclusion of these international CDM requirements will open the door for CCS projects in South Africa to be considered as CDM activities.
Further, the approach will provide support for accelerated research and the development and implementation of CCS in South Africa for CO2-rich industrial process emissions, especially those related to the coal-to-liquids process in South Africa, notes Arenstein.