Federal Cabinet Approves Draft CCS Bill

The German government approved a draft bill for a German federal statute transposing Directive 2009/31/EC on the geological storage of carbon dioxide, allowing for CCS demonstration projects.

The draft bill should be seen against the background of a lengthy and still controversial political debate about CCS storage. The new CCS act shall regulate

  • The exploration of sites regarding the suitability for permanent CO2 storage;
  • The construction and the operation of the C02 storage facilities;
  • The closure and post-closure obligations; and
  • The transfer or responsibility after a period of 30 years.

CO2 storage sites may only be permitted if an application is made before the end of 2016. Annual storage capacities of an individual site may not exceed 3 million tons of CO2 per year and 8 million tons of C02 in total.

CCS is controversial in Germany. However,  demonstration projects were necessary to assess whether CCS could contribute to climate protection, the ministry says. One aim of the draft bill is to have at least one of the up to twelve EU CCS pilot projects built. 

The draft act contains a clause pursuant to which the federal states can designate areas for CCS pilot projects as well as areas in which such projects are not allowed. According to the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi), the draft act provides for criteria for the exclusion of areas for CCS projects. The ecological situation of a site has to be balanced against other public interests. The clause is a concession to the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower-Saxony that had demanded an opt-out clause, blocking previous attempts to reach agreement over a CCS law. The state of Brandenburg in the East of Germany, which has lobbied for a CCS law for quite some time, had repeatedly argued against an opt-out clause, giving the states full discretion to opt out.

The bill still has to be adopted by the Bundestag (Federal Parliament). It needs the consent of the Federal Council (Bundesrat), the legislative body that represents the sixteen Länder (Federal States) on the federal level. As the ruling Conservative/Liberal government does not hold a majority in the Federal Council, it needs consent by at least one opposition state, e.g. Brandenburg, which is ruled by the Socialists and the Left, in order to transpose Directive 2009/31/EC by 25 June 2011.

According to the newspaper die Welt, Brandenburg is opposed to the draft bill. There are concerns that the geographically more suited North German states will not allow CCS sites. “Brandenburg is not a state with sufficient storage sites, we only have the capacities for testing the technology”, the paper quotes the state premier as saying. The government in Brandenburg had always linked the future of lignite in the Lausitz area with a considerable CO2 reduction, Die Welt remarks.

Vattenfall Europe operates several coal-fired power plants in Eastern Germany. Vattenfall also operates a oxyfuel pilot plant located near its existing lignite fired power plant in Schwarze Pumpe, Brandenburg. In 2015 the company wants to open a CCS demonstration power plant in Jänschwalde (also located in Brandenburg), where CCS technology is implemented for the first time on a power plant scale. A small pilot program for CCS also exists in Ketzin (Brandenburg). It is coordinated by the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences. So far, the state of Brandenburg has granted permits for the pilot projects based on mining law.

Sources: BMU;  BMWi, Die Welt

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