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“Carbon Capture” and “Carbon Storage” in the Perspective of Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates

Out of the blue, the terminologies “carbon capture” and “carbon storage” have become hot topics of discussion in coffee shops. This is because this topic was questioned by vice presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka to vice presidential candidate Moh Mahfud MD in the vice presidential debate on the evening of December 22, 2023.

Out of the blue, the terminologies “carbon capture” and “carbon storage” have become hot topics of discussion in coffee shops. This is because this topic was questioned by vice presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka to vice presidential candidate Moh Mahfud MD in the vice presidential debate on the evening of December 22, 2023.

Gibran Rakabuming Raka asked, “What regulations are needed for carbon capture and storage?” even though the issues of carbon capture and carbon storage were not included in the visions and missions of all presidential and vice presidential candidate pairs competing in the 2024 Presidential and Vice Presidential Election.

Before discussing the essence of the question, let’s first understand what carbon capture and carbon storage are.

In the science of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, fossil fuel industrialists, such as oil, coal, and natural gas—often referred to as nonrenewable energy sources—are very enthusiastic about “selling” carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS technology) or carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies.

So, in general, CCUS is a technology that is a series of processes that begin with the separation, utilization, and capture of carbon from emission sources, utilization and transportation of captured carbon to a safe storage location.

The more important question to ask in public discourse, including in presidential and vice presidential debates, is the following.

Namely: (i) can CCUS technology significantly mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere or not?; (ii) is CCUS technology safe for the environment and society?; (iii) does Indonesia need to adopt or reject CCUS technology?

After answering these three fundamental questions, then we can ask how to regulate CCUS technology in our national law? Therefore, the question that must be answered by presidential and vice-presidential candidates are the four questions above so as not to jump and misstep in regulating the use of CCUS technology in Indonesia.

Benefits and Harms

Before explaining the benefits and harms of CCUS, it is worth reminding that CCUS is not a new technology. This technology has existed since the 1970s.

In the 1970s, this technology was called enhanced oil recovery by injecting CO2 into empty oil and gas reservoirs to extract remaining hydrocarbons.

So, the reason for the origin of this technology was not intended to capture and store carbon from CO2 emissions, but to increase oil and gas extraction revenue.

Therefore, don’t be surprised if the proponents and sellers of CCUS technology are major oil, gas, and coal conglomerates because they want to continue to operate with a business as usual model while claiming that emissions from fossil fuels they produce can be captured, utilized, and stored so that they can continue to operate without hindrance.

These technology sellers even dare to claim that CCUS has a success rate of up to 90 percent, but from a number of pilot projects in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, their success is very low.

According to a report in New Scientist, the majority of CCUS projects fail or produce smaller carbon captures than expected (Adam Vaughan, Most Major Carbon Capture and Storage Projects Haven’t Met Targets, September 1, 2022).

Furthermore, Bruce Robertson said that “carbon capture has a long history of failure” (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 1, 2022).

The latest scientific article written by Dongmin Xi et al. is even more frightening because it reveals that there have been many accidents in CO2 pipelines.

“Carbon dioxide pipelines: A statistical analysis of historical accidents” published in the Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries (Vol 84, September 2023) reports that there have been many accidents in the carbon capture and storage pipeline process.

Therefore, after reading the benefits and harms from various sources, the author dares to conclude that CCUS technology needs to be carefully considered and reconsidered before being used as a tool to reduce CO2 emissions in Indonesia.

CCUS Regulation in Indonesia

Indonesia, as a country that has signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement, has an obligation to seriously reduce greenhouse gas emissions from various sources in Indonesia.

However, the choice of technology and strategies used must be tailored to the needs and benefits desired by Indonesia. It should be remembered that the words CCUS are not found in the texts of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement so legally Indonesia is not bound to adopt CCUS technology.

The words CCUS can only be seen in some documents produced by the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC. COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for example, suggests exploring CO2 emission reduction technologies including CCUS.

In addition, in COP 28 which has just ended in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, there is one sentence that places CCUS as one of the methods, but it has never been the “main menu” in efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.

Therefore, the government and the DPR must be careful in formulating CCUS regulations because in many countries it has been proven ineffective and even dangerous for environmental protection and preservation.

The author would like to convey that CCUS technology is also unknown in Law Number 32 of 2009 concerning Environmental Protection, Law Number 22 of 2001 concerning Oil and Gas, and Law Number 30 of 2007 concerning Energy.

CCUS is also not found in the documents of the Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (ENDC) 2022 of the Republic of Indonesia.

The only regulation regarding CCUS that can be referred to is Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Regulation (Permen ESDM) Number 2 of 2023 concerning the Implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage, and Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage in Upstream Oil and Gas Business Activities.

Interestingly, Ministerial Regulation No. 2/2023 does not refer to the Environmental Law and the ENDC, but only specializes in carbon storage for oil and gas businesses and does not cover other carbon emissions.

Ministerial Regulation No. 2/2023, consisting of ten chapters and 61 articles, only emphasizes the regulation and process of CCUS, but unfortunately does not require an obligation for environmental impact analysis (amdal) for CCUS projects.

Ministerial Regulation No. 2/2023 also only prepares administrative sanctions: written warnings and temporary cessation (Articles 56-57), even though CCUS projects can cause environmental damage, hazards to humans, resource damage, and equipment and installations (Article 23 paragraph 2).

Furthermore, Article 46 prepares the possibility of emergency response to human safety, environmental, and public safety because it is recognized that CCUS is a technology that has safety risks. However, because it is only regulated at the ministerial level, there are no criminal sanctions, even though the possibility of causing damage is very high.

Realizing the imperfections of Ministerial Regulation No. 2/2023, presidential and vice-presidential candidates should carefully realize that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia must be comprehensively regulated in the form of laws or at least government regulations, not only partially regulated through carbon capture and storage regulations which have not been proven beneficial.

Laode M Syarif Executive Director of KEMITRAAN and Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Hasanuddin University