Clear the way for carbon dioxide storage testing

Bill allows gradual development of CCS technology

CCS pilot power plant Schwarze Pumpe © Vattenfall
Read out

The Federal Government has passed a bill that will allow the testing and demonstration of carbon dioxide storage in Germany in the future. This paves the way for the gradual development of controversial carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The CCS aims to reduce CO2 emissions especially in industry, but environmental organizations point to the unknown long-term risks.

Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) separates carbon dioxide from power plants and industrial plants so that it can be stored in low-lying rock formations and sealed off from the atmosphere. The bill that has now been passed aims to pave the way for a gradual approach to the further development of such technologies. He first allows the testing and demonstration of some carbon dioxide storage and envisages that the state of development of the technologies will be fully evaluated in 2017. Countries may, as part of a technical assessment, identify both areas in which CO2 storage is permitted and those in which it is not permitted. The bill is intended to respond to different regional circumstances and to help increase the acceptance of CCS.

"The possibility of testing the CCS technology opens up Germany to an internationally respected climate protection option, which as an export product can also be of great economic importance, " explains Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen in Berlin. "The bill allows for testing on the highest environmental standards and requires comprehensive public participation. The question of large-scale application will only be decided once the safety of CCS technology has been proven after the trial phase. "

CCS an option especially for CO2-intensive industries

According to some experts, the testing of CCS opens up an important perspective for climate protection, especially for low-carbon industrial production. This is especially important for the industrial location of Germany, as steelworks and chemical plants will not be able to survive without CO2 emissions in the long term. Notwithstanding the accelerated energy transition, the accelerated expansion of energy efficiency and renewable energies, coal-fired power plants will continue to form the basis of electricity generation in the longer term, both here and around the world. CCS can be a solution for reducing the resulting emissions. The technology can also be used to reduce greenhouse gases when using biomass.

Environmental organizations reacted cautiously to the decision. The so-called CCS technology should at best be used for the unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions in industry. "Even without CCS, we can rebuild our power supply in a climate-friendly way, " commented NABU's Federal Executive Director Leif Miller on the draft bill on the Cabinet. There is still no solution for how we can produce cement or steel in a climate-friendly way or replace it with less CO2-intensive products. For such a purpose, the cautious can be used Researching the technology may be needed. Therefore, the technology should be tested in industrial plants instead of coal-fired power plants. display

Incalculable risks?

The NABU warned the governing coalition against diverting the risks from polluters to society. Who produces greenhouse gases must also stand for the consequences. If the emissions are dumped underground by CCS, the corporations must adhere to long-term risks, "demanded NABU energy expert Elmar Gro e Ruse. It should not be that the financial responsibility for all potential consequential damage to CCS technology reaches taxpayers after just 30 years.

The Federal Government for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) was much more determined against the CCS technology and its incalculable risks: the injection of carbon dioxide into the subsurface could lead to salinisation of the groundwater and drinking water supply many municipalities and large conurbations such as Berlin, Hamburg or even Munich. The high pressures required to compress the CO2 into the depth could also cause leaks or earthquakes. Escaping carbon dioxide, which can accumulate in depressions or floods, represents a great danger for the population.

CO2 repositories should also be permanently tight, otherwise they would not have a climate-conserving effect. The tightness, however, can not be guaranteed by science or industry. Insurance companies are also unwilling to hedge the risks of CCS. It would be a fatal wrong decision when the high-risk technology nuclear power nor the high-risk CCS technology added, so the BUND in a comment on the bill.

Minister of Economics Rainer Br derle, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of security in the approval of demonstration projects: We have enshrined the highest safety standards in the law - for example with regard to questions of long-term safety, pre- and aftercare. The central criterion for the approval of a demonstration memory is proof of long-term safety. The operator has to take precautions against impairments of humans and the environment according to the state of science and technology, ie the highest standard of care. He has to take into account current findings about the entire process of permanent storage. The law also requires comprehensive cover and aftercare. "

Step by step procedure

The Federal Government has opted for a gradual approach. In the area of ​​CO2 storage, the bill initially only regulates testing and demonstration. Also for the admission of the demonstration storage a broad participation of the citizens is necessary. This is to take into account the peculiarities of the still new technology and the concerns of the population. The question of a wider introduction of CCS will only be decided once the security of storage has been sufficiently demonstrated. The law is to be comprehensively evaluated in 2007. To this end, the Federal Government prepares a report to the German Bundestag. Only if the report is positive, CCS can continue.

(BMU, BMWi, NABU, BUND, 14.04.2011 - NPO)