Objective is to lay out parameters for the creation of a legal framework that provides legal security for companies that opt to store CO2, using CCS technologies

Carbon dioxide (CO2), produced by burning fuels and by industrial and biological processes, is the main cause of the greenhouse effect and, therefore, it is the gas that most contributes to worsening climate change on this planet. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is identified as one of the means of reducing the rate of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. When applied to the petroleum industry, for example, CCS optimizes the productivity of oil fields while, at the same time, burying part of the carbon that is “released” during the exploration process, which is known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The problem is that, in Brazil, there is a lack of specific CCS legislation, which is the first step towards the large-scale adoption of this technology.

In this context, a group of researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) is working to gather the information needed for creating such a law. Under the coordination of Professor Hirdan Katarina de Medeiros Costa, from the Institute of Energy and Environment of the University of São Paulo (IEE-USP), the group is finalizing studies that will serve as a basis for the proposed bill. The work is being carried out within the scope of the FAPESP Shell Research Center for Gas Innovation (RCGI). “The objective is to lay out parameters for the creation of a legal framework that provides legal security for the use of CCS by companies and opens the way for regulations and public policies that give incentive to this activity,” Costa states.

The researchers focus their studies on the CCS storage phase — considered to be the most sensitive of the entire process. “A company that has pumped an oil well for 30 years, for example, terminates the operation after decommissioning (dismantling the infrastructure and returning the area to the government). The same is not true when it comes to CO2 storage, since the obligation to continue monitoring and the responsibility for possible leakage tends to extend beyond the end of the operation, which impacts costs on the business model as a whole,” explains lawyer Isabela Morbach, one of the group’s researchers. “That is, after decommissioning, the obligations can continue on for 30, 50 years.” In this scenario, without financial support from the government and a clear regulatory design for sharing responsibilities, the tendency is for private investments to be held back.”

Risk reduction – Specific legislation is also important for a more assertive approach to the risks involved in the operation, as well as for defining control and inspection agencies and the responsibility of each involved party. “Detailing the monitoring procedures, to ensure the integrity and security of the installations, was one of the aspects that most caught my attention in the cases studied,” says another member of the group, geologist Israel Lacerda de Araújo. “Inadequate carbon storage implies a risk of leakage into the atmosphere. Furthermore, in the event of an accident, it is necessary to be clear on how companies should act to reduce environmental damage,” he adds.

Data from the Global CCS Institute show that 174 installations or projects, worldwide, have this technology. In Brazil, CCS has been used by Petrobras on the platforms of the cities of Angra dos Reis and Paraty, in the Tupi field (State of Rio de Janeiro), and of the State of São Paulo, in the Sapinhoá field, both in the Santos Basin. The National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) is responsible for monitoring all activities.

For Araújo, specific CCS regulations in the oil industry would not only correct possible flaws but would also open the way for the application of this technology by other sectors, such as the steel industry, which is one of the major sources of carbon dioxide emissions. “Recently, the Brazilian government committed to developing the National Hydrogen Program. The proposal includes blue hydrogen – installations that use fossil fuels with CCS technology. This will require legislation, regulation, and organization of the production chain,” he emphasizes.

The RCGI bill proposal is in the final preparation stages. “The objective is not to make an exhaustive exposition of the subject but, based on the world’s best practices, to provide a comprehensive vision of how this issue can be dealt with in Brazil,” says the coordinator of the study. When completed, the proposal will be presented to the productive sector and to government agencies.