In a Nutshell
The Directive on the geological storage of CO2 (CCS Directive) establishes a regulatory framework for the safe and responsible development and operation of geological carbon dioxide (CO2) storage in the EU. It applies to commercial scale facilities with a capacity of 100 kilotonnes per year (ktCO2/yr) or more.
One of the key elements of the Directive is a permit regime for CO2 storage. The rules set out minimum requirements for selecting CO2 storage sites to ensure there is no significant risk of reversal or damage to health or the environment. Operators are required to demonstrate financial security prior to injecting CO2 to cover potential liabilities and must closely monitor the sites during the operational phase to ensure long-term integrity and containment of stored CO2.
The Directive also introduces a liability mechanism in case of a reversal of CO2 out of storage, where the operator must take corrective measures. It also integrates CO2 storage into existing EU legislation. Environmental Liability Directive provides liability rules for environmental damage; and operators are included in the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). If emissions are captured, transported, and stored in compliance with the CCS Directive, they are considered as not emitted under the ETS. In the case of reversal, ETS allowances must be surrendered. Liability for damage to health and property is left for regulation at Member State level.
The entire lifetime of storage sites is another key element. The Directive prescribes the decommissioning requirements for sites at and after closure and provides for the transfer of liabilities from the storage operator to the Member State 20 years after closure of sites.
While the CCS Directive was introduced to provide an enabling framework for carbon capture and storage (CCS), it governs any instance of geological storage of CO2. This includes the storage portion of any carbon dioxide removal (CDR) activities which store pure gaseous/supercritical CO2, e.g., bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture with carbon storage (DACCS).
What's on the Horizon?
2023: The Commission is reviewing the CCS Directive’s implementation guidance documents to address the latest technical and market developments and remove the ambiguities identified during the implementation of the first CCS deployments.
2023: The Commission is expected to share the results of two studies on CO2 infrastructure, one analysing an outline of the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure in 2030 and 2040, and the other analysing the regulatory environment, which will inform the upcoming Communication on industrial carbon management.
June 2023: National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) expected. The Commission has requested that Member States include a dedicated chapter on geological storage of CO2, addressing the need for CO2 capture in hard-to-abate industrial sectors, but also considering ongoing or planned biogenic carbon and direct air capture projects.
Q3-Q4 2023: Member States need to report to the European Commission on the implementation of the Directive by April 2023, which will be followed by the Commission’s fourth Implementation Report.
Q4 2023: A Communication on industrial carbon management is expected from the Commission in Q4, preceded by a public consultation (timing tbd). The strategy will address the prevailing lack of CO2 infrastructure development in Europe, and as such may intersect with the CCS Directive.
The CCS Directive was originally designed to assist the EU in meeting its CO2 reduction obligations through capture and geological storage of CO2. It is an essential tool to enable the activities for CO2 management and, as such, an important tool in the CDR regulatory toolkit.
The CCS Directive governs the geological formations in which carbon can be stored. Member States are required to cooperate with the Commission to establish maps of existing, potential, and closed geological storage sites. The Directive also requires operators and competent authorities to establish 3D dynamic models of storage complexes, including protected natural areas. These data offer a critical resource for developing Europe’s carbon management plans, including CDR.
Transborder CO2 movement
The Directive also includes provisions for the transport of CO2 across borders and for storage reservoirs which span multiple countries. This is an important base on which to develop a modular CDR ecosystem where facilities employing CO2 capture and storage sites might be located across Europe with CO2 transported across national borders.
The recent revision (2022) of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation, which identifies priority corridors and priority thematic areas to develop and interconnect, updated the infrastructure categories eligible for support allowing CO2 transport infrastructure to qualify as a Project of Common Interest (PCI). 14 such projects have already been submitted to the PCI selection.
The implementation of the Directive varies across Europe. In addition to the restrictions allowing CO2 storage only in geological formations which are permanently unsuitable for other purposes (see the EU’s Water Policy), Member States retain the right to not allow geological storage in parts or all of their territory (for example, Germany currently limits the amount of CO2 that can be geologically stored annually to 4 million tonnes and does not allow new demonstration projects to be approved, meaning there is no underground geological storage of CO2 taking place). CDR operators dependent on geological storage will have to navigate this fragmented regulatory landscape.
The information on the practical application of the Directive is limited, despite it being in force for more than 10 years. The uptake of CCS in Europe has been slower than predicted and the rules have not had the chance to demonstrate their effectiveness. The lack of CCS projects has largely been due to the low carbon price and absence of policy support measures to enable the deployment of CCS. Still, the Directive requires a rigorous reviewing process prior to permitting, which makes for intensive work on both storage applicants’ and the national authorities’ side. In any event, the European Commission’s upcoming strategic vision for CCS and CCU might yet provide the necessary fuel to jumpstart the industry and stress test the CCS Directive.
CCS Directive signed into law
Decision 2018/853 empowers the Commission to amend the Annexes of the CCS Directive via delegated acts to adapt to technical and scientific progress
Revision of the CCS Directive implementation guidance documents
Results expected from two studies on the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure and the regulatory environment, to inform the upcoming Communication on CCS and CCU
Member States will report to the Commission on the implementation of the CCS Directive
Member States will update National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP), with a dedicated chapter on geological storage of CO2
Fourth CCS Directive Implementation Report from the Commission
Expected publication of the Communication on CCS and CCU
- Carbon Capture and Storage, European Commission
- Implementation report of the CCS Directive, European Commission, 2019
- Identification and analysis of promising carbon capture and utilisation technologies, including their regulatory aspects, study for the European Commission, 2019
Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the geological storage of carbon dioxide and amending Council Directive 85/337/EEC, European Parliament and Council Directives 2000/60/EC, 2001/80/EC, 2004/35/EC, 2006/12/EC, 2008/1/EC and Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 (Text with EEA relevance)