Centre for Law and Environment


Report on attendance at Fifth Carbon Capture and Storage Summit

5 March 2015

A year ago (May 2012) the South African cabinet identified Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as one of the options for South Africa to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.  Shortly thereafter I was invited by the Carbon Capture Unit within the Centre for Law and Environment at UCL to lead a project on legal and regulatory aspects of CCS in South Africa (see Jan Glazewski, Andrew Gilder and Ernesta Swanepoel ‘Carbon Capture and Storage: Towards a regulatory and legal regime for South Africa’ 2012). As such I thought it worthwhile while a visitor at the UCL Centre in May 2013 to attend the above symposium which also included a field trip to a near ready carbon capture ready power generation plant in the vicinity.

Although the presentations over the two days were largely of a technical nature I learnt a lot over the three days and believe that the other delegates enjoyed my questions and interventions.  Among the things I learnt, and relevant to South Africa, were:

  • the NDL is increasing its reliance on coal fired power stations in their energy mix because of an apparent peak in oil and gas reserves in the North Sea and need for energy security;
  • while the general tenor of the conference was fairly pessimistic regarding progress made in implementing CCS projects partly because applications to national and EU funding sources have largely been unsuccessful.  One topical example which was subject to a dedicated session was the lack of any award in response to the first NER 300 call for applications. There  some  light in the landscape in that the EU presenter  seemed confident that the second call for applications will result in some awards being made;
  •  a further cause of concern was the low carbon price; the apparent failure of the ETS.  Among alternatives which were raised were Emission Performance Standards which as I see it is a return to the classical ‘command and control’ approach rather than using financial instruments.

On the more optimistic side I was fascinated to learn about alternative uses to which carbon be could be put. A new acronym for me was CCUS (Carbon Capture, Use and Storage). A representative from Lanza Tech made a fascinating presentation on potential uses of carbon for animal feedstock using electrochemical processes. I was duly impressed and Googled this company fantasizing buying shares in it only to learn under FAQ (question 1) that this was not possible as it was a wholly owned private company.

In conclusion I learnt a lot and will approach the South African Centre for Carbon Capture Storage in South Africa to explore the possibility of entering into an agreement with Norway as CCS was recently approved as a CDM project under the Kyoto Protocol.

I wish to record my appreciation to the Centre for Law and Environment at UCL for facilitating this trip.