The Legal Framework for Offshore Carbon Capture and Storage in Canada
Averting catastrophic climate change requires immediate action to prevent additional carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. However, even that may not be sufficient, with many scientists now warning that it will likely also be necessary to reduce the existing atmospheric carbon dioxide load. That could be achieved using negative emissions technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store or utilize it in some way. One promising technology is direct air capture (“DAC”) which uses liquid chemical solutions or solid sorbent filters to capture carbon dioxide from the air and concentrate it into a pure stream.
Current DAC technologies are highly energy intensive and must be powered by renewable energy sources to achieve negative emissions. Ideally, DAC equipment would be co- located with a renewable energy facility, at a site where carbon dioxide can be stored or used. There is growing interest in the possibility of locating systems offshore in areas with high wind energy capacity and sub-seabed geologic formations that are suitable for storing carbon dioxide. One possible site off the west coast of Canada—known as the Cascadia Basin—is currently being explored in a Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions study, called Solid Carbon. This paper was developed as part of that study. It provides a comprehensive analysis of legal issues associated with deploying an offshore DAC system, powered by offshore wind turbines, in Canadian waters and storing the captured carbon dioxide in sub-seabed rock formations.
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