The successful and progressive implementation of a large number of new CCS projects (perhaps 30 to 40 4Mt projects) in Australia is pivotal to achieving the ambitious emissions reduction targets of 43% by 2030 and Net Zero by 2050. Additionally, it is imperative for Australia to uphold its commitments to Asia-Pacific energy partners, thereby ensuring their energy security and aiding in achieving their own emissions reduction objectives. To effectively execute these required projects and to maintain the required momentum, the industry requires comprehensive policy and regulatory support and a highly efficient regulatory regime.
The existing Federal regulatory framework offshore is, however, almost 20 years old and was developed in another era, an era when the concepts for what CCS would look like in Australia in the 2020s and 2030s was very different. This mismatch between the legislation’s legacy foundations, including its petroleum underpinnings and the lack of specific objectives (e.g., to reduce emissions) and the current dynamic project environment for CCS, which includes the recent net zero 2050, 43% reduction by 2030 and the Safeguard Mechanism, means that the existing regulatory framework is not really fit-for-purpose and will not provide the approvals timeframes necessary for Australia to meet its targets.
To address this challenge, CO2CRC and its members have established the CCS Regulatory Taskforce or CCS RTF. The raison d’etre of the CCS RTF is to serve as platform for engagement by and between project proponents, to act as an incubator for innovative ideas, a platform to identify key regulatory issues and a vehicle to conceptualise, develop and mature potential options or solutions. Ultimately, the goal is to present these insights to the government for consideration and action. Significant progress has been made and substantial further advances are expected over the next one to two years.
What is clear from an analysis of the number and location of planned and actual CCS projects in Australia over the last 20 years is that it is policy changes – such as the net zero target – that have been principally responsible for the recent dramatic increase in the number of CCS projects. Given that an increasing and large number of projects is required to meet net zero, it is encouraging that the policy driver is working. In contrast, the introduction of regulations has not moved the dial on project numbers, but it is effective regulation that is essential to the delivery of the projects facilitated by policy change. It is the regulatory pieces that the CCS Regulatory Taskforce is focussed upon.