International standards for CCS

In May 2011, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) submitted a proposal to the International Standards Organization (ISO) to develop an internationally agreed standard/s for CCS. The SCC’s proposal is a consequence of a collaborative effort between the International Performance Assessment Centre for Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide (IPAC-CO2) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) to establish a bi-national CCS standard for Canada and the US and subsequently use the standard as a basis for accreditation under the ISO.

The proposal seeks to develop standards that cover: capture, transport, storage, risk management, and quantification and verification; and include materials, equipment, environmental planning and management, and other CCS-related activities.

By establishing an ISO standard for CCS, the ultimate objective is to have CCS-related activities conform to a global consensus on performance standards and to define the specifications and criteria that can be applied consistently to all CCS projects.

However, the objective to secure a global consensus on a uniform set of rules and criteria that can appropriately, dependably, and efficiently address all of the localised needs of CCS projects may prove to be challenging at this stage of global CCS developments.

ISO standards on CCS are likely to take several years to develop. The process has commenced, with the formation of a Technical Committee (ISO/TC265) which engages 13 voting countries (as represented by their respective national standards organisations) and 12 observing countries. The first meeting of TC265 was held in Paris in June 2012. The SCC and the Standardization Administration of China have been appointed Secretariat of the ISO work program.

A scoping document released by the TC in mid-2012 indicates recognition that not all CCS-related subject matter is ready for standardisation, and the TC further recognises that CCS is a dynamic and evolving subject, and care will be taken to ensure that standards remain up to date and do not impede innovation.

The application by sovereign nations of ISO standards is voluntary, and as such governments can choose to adopt them in their regulations or not. An ISO standard is ultimately decided on by an international consensus of designated experts who discuss, debate, and argue from within ‘national delegations’. They are subject to a periodic review at least every five years.

There are currently no known accredited national or international standards specific to CCS. There are however a large number of published peer-reviewed expert reports, best practices, and guidelines that contain transparent approaches and recommendations to address and/or redress CCS-related issues.

Policy makers have tended to avoid placing too much emphasis on institutionalising nascent and evolving CCS-related performance standards due to the limited amount of project level data currently available to inform the setting of appropriate performance thresholds. The setting of standards on the basis of incomplete information could potentially lead to overly conservative permit requirements being imposed on demonstration and pre-commercial CCS projects, and this could undermine the ability of proponents to proceed with innovative and often first-of-a-kind demonstration projects.

In September 2012, the Institute was notified of its Category A Liaison Organization status. This role will see the Institute inform and seek input from relevant stakeholders on issues as they arise throughout the discussions.