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Offshore platform in the Nini West oil field between Denmark and Norway: storage space on the seabed

Photo: FJ-MCAULEY / INEOS Energy / dpa

Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck wants to enable underground storage of CO₂ for industries that are particularly harmful to the climate.

This should happen on the high seas, said the Green politician on Monday in Berlin.

“The technology is safe.” The CO₂ remains in the earth.

Storage should remain prohibited on land.

Marine protected areas would also be exempt from storage.

But changes to the law are now needed to allow the transport of captured CO₂ from industrial processes by pipeline, said Habeck.

In doing so, he goes beyond formulations that his party recently supported.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the focus is on CO₂ emissions that are difficult or impossible to avoid.

State funding is provided here.

However, at their federal party conference at the end of November 2023, the Greens only supported a change in course on unavoidable emissions.

The party had previously strictly rejected the technology.

The capture and storage of CO₂ – called CCS – is intended to help achieve the long-term goal of becoming climate neutral by 2045.

This is not possible in all industries, which is why CCS is considered an important supplement, said Habeck.

The federal government has agreed on an initial key issues paper.

This is likely to be discussed in detail over the next few months.

Specifically, the carbon dioxide storage law is now to be changed.

This is intended to create a legal framework for the development of a CO₂ pipeline infrastructure and to enable storage on the high seas.

Habeck said that he expected a quick agreement within the federal government so that the cabinet could then agree.

The Bundestag should also give the green light quickly, even though it is a difficult law.

He couldn't say exactly when storage would become a reality.

A few years would pass.

But there is enough space in the sea.

The pipeline network should be operated by private companies.

Support from climate researcher Edenhofer

The storage is aimed at industries that, as things currently stand, would be difficult or impossible to become climate neutral, explained Habeck.

The German climate researcher Ottmar Edenhofer emphasized that without CO₂ storage, Germany would not achieve its climate goals.

CCS stands for “Carbon Capture and Storage”.

What this means is that CO₂ is captured during industrial processes, brought to an underground storage facility and stored there.

This is considered very expensive and it is controversial which production areas the technology should be applied to.

Some environmental associations warn that climate protection progress could be even slower internationally.

If CO₂ can be captured again, there will be less effort to avoid it.

“The focus of our efforts is always to prevent emissions from occurring in the first place,” emphasized Habeck.

State funding should focus on emissions that are difficult or impossible to avoid.

“Otherwise the climate goals will be impossible to achieve,” said Habeck, promoting the storage plans.

He pointed to other countries like Norway that followed a similar path.

CCS is a complement to climate policy when other measures do not work.

There are also projects in Denmark, the Netherlands and Great Britain that should best be coordinated with each other.

German Environmental Aid spoke of “life-extending measures for fossil gas power plants.”

In addition, the North Sea will be converted into a waste disposal park.

"We call on the Federal Cabinet and the Bundestag not to agree to this proposal."

Greenpeace also criticized the plans.

The strategy bears the hallmarks of the industry.

It allows “business as usual” and slows down measures to avoid emissions, says Greenpeace energy expert Karsten Smid.

A gigantic disposal infrastructure should be created.

"Cross-border trade in CO2 waste promotes a new business model: the more CO2 produced, the more money can be made." Furthermore, it has not been scientifically proven that the CO₂ repositories remain permanently sealed.