To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the legal impediments to the use of depleted gas and oil fields for carbon sequestration purposes.
The placement of materials in the maritime area (which includes geological structures under the seabed) is regulated internationally by the London Convention and the 1996 protocol to the Convention, and by the OSPAR Convention for the protection of the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic. The 1996 protocol to the London Convention is not yet in force, but has been ratified by the United Kingdom and we would expect to abide by its provisions.
The question of the compatibility of carbon dioxide placement in geological structures, including depleted or partly depleted oil and gas fields, has been discussed in both conventions.
Under both conventions, there is no bar on the use of carbon dioxide for operational purposes. This implies that carbon sequestration in association with enhanced oil recovery would be permitted.
The contracting parties to the OSPAR convention agreed a position statement on carbon sequestration in 2004. This established that in other certain circumstances carbon sequestration is compatible with the convention. The position is set out in full in Annex 12 to the summary record of the 2004 meeting of the OSPAR Commission. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House, and it is also available on the OSPAR web site, www.ospar.org.
The United Kingdom raised the issue of the carbon sequestration during the 2004 consultative meeting of the parties to the London Convention. The legal position has not yet been established. It was agreed to set up an inter-sessional correspondence group to consider the legal issues raised under both the convention and the 1996 protocol. The UK is coordinating the work of this group. The issue will be discussed again at the 2005 consultative meeting in October, when results of the inter-sessional work will be considered.
Any proposed project for carbon sequestration would also need to comply with relevant European directives and domestic legislation, for example in relation to the assessment environmental impacts and to the protection of the environment.