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Carbon dioxide capture and geological storage

The European Union (EU) establishes a legislative framework for the environmentally safe capture and geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2). This new legislative framework aims at preventing or, and where that is not possible, minimising the harmful effects of CO2 emissions and all environmental and health risks.


Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the geological storage of carbon dioxide and amending Council Directive 85/337/EEC, European Parliament and Council Directives 2000/60/EC, 2001/80/EC, 2004/35/EC, 2006/12/EC, 2008/1/EC and Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006.


The objective of this Directive is to establish a legal framework for environmentally safe geological storage of carbon dioxide in order to contribute to tackling climate change.

The Directive applies to the geological storage of CO2 within the territory of the Member States, in their exclusive economic zones and on their continental shelves.

This Directive does not apply to the geological storage of CO2 with a capacity of less than 100 kilo tonnes.

The storage of CO2 in a water column or in a storage site with a storage complex extending beyond the territory, in the exclusive economic zones or in the continental shelves of Member States is not permitted.

Selection and exploration of storage sites

A geological formation is selected as a storage site only if, under the proposed conditions of use, there is no significant risk of leakage and no significant environmental or health risks exist.

The suitability of a geological formation for use as a storage site is determined through a characterisation and assessment of the potential storage complex and surrounding area pursuant to the criteria specified in Annex I to this Directive. The characterisation of a site is carried out in three stages:

  • Step 1: data collection on the site (geology, hydrogeology, seismicity, etc.) and its surroundings (population, proximity to resources or protected sites, etc.);
  • Step 2: building computer models from the data collected in order to characterise the different aspects of the sites (geological structure, geomechanical and geochemical properties, available volume, etc.);
  • Step 3: characterisation of the storage dynamic behaviour, sensitivity characterisation and risk assessment.

The exploration required in order to obtain the information needed for selecting a storage site cannot be carried out without a permit. The permit is issued by the competent authority in each Member State for the period necessary to carry out the exploration of the site. However, an extension may be granted to complete the exploration concerned. The holder of an exploration permit has the sole right to explore the potential CO2 storage complex. Member States ensure that no conflicting uses of the complex are permitted during the period of validity of the permit.

Storage permits

No storage site may be used without a permit. Applications for storage permits must be sent to the competent authority of each Member State and must contain certain information on the operator, the characterisation of the storage site and storage complex and an assessment of the expected security of the storage, the total quantity of CO2 to be injected and the composition of CO2 streams, the preventative measures, a proposed monitoring plan, the corrective measures, a proposed provisional post-closure plan, proof of financial security, etc.

The competent authority must check that the requirements applicable to this Directive and other legislative provisions of EU law are met and that the management of the site is in the hands of a person who is technically competent and reliable. Member States must inform the Commission of all draft storage permits within one month after receipt. Within four months of receipt, the Commission may then issue a non-binding opinion on the draft permits within a period of six months. When taking its decision, the competent authority must consider this opinion and, if it deviates from it, must give reasons for its final decision to the Commission.

No substantial change may be made without a new or updated storage permit being issued pursuant to this Directive.

The competent authority reviews the situation and updates, or as a last resort, withdraws the storage permit:

  • in the case of leakages or significant irregularities;
  • in the case of non-compliance with permit conditions or risks of leakages or significant irregularities;
  • any failure by the operator to meet the permit conditions;
  • on the basis of the latest scientific findings and technological progress;
  • in any case, five years after issuing the permit and every 10 years thereafter.

Operation, closure and post-closure obligations

No waste or any other matter may be added to the CO2 stream with a view to disposing of it. Concentrations of incidental substances present in the stream must be below levels that could adversely affect the storage site and infrastructure or pose a risk to the environment. The operator must prove that the CO2 stream meets these criteria and keep a register of the CO2 streams delivered.

The operator must monitor the injection facilities, the storage complex and, where appropriate, the surrounding environment, in accordance with the monitoring plan approved by the competent authority. The monitoring serves to compare the actual and the modelled behaviour of CO2 and to detect significant irregularities, CO2 migration and CO2 leakages and the effects on the environment and the population. The monitoring plan is updated at least every 5 years.

At least once a year, the operator must communicate certain information to the competent authority, including the results of the monitoring of the storage site, the quantities and characteristics of the CO2 stream and proof of the maintenance of the financial security.

The competent authority must organise routine inspections (at least every year) or non-routine inspections (for example, in the case of leakages, in the case of significant irregularities, in the case of non-compliance with the permit conditions, or in the case of serious environmental or health complaints) of the storage sites. The report resulting from each inspection is forwarded to the operator and made publicly available.

In the case of leakages or significant irregularities, the operator must notify the competent authority immediately and take the necessary corrective measures, as described in the corrective measures plan approved by the competent authority. The competent authority may impose additional measures and, if the operator takes no action, take corrective measures itself, at the operator’s expense.

The site is closed if the conditions stated in the permit have been met, at the request of the operator or if the competent authority so decides after the withdrawal of the permit. After closure, the operator remains responsible for the site, including sealing the site and removing the injection facilities. The operator is also subject to the same obligations as during operation, in accordance with a provisional post-closure plan approved by the competent authority. Responsibility is then transferred to the competent authority when all available evidence indicates that the stored CO2 will be completely and permanently contained, a minimum period has elapsed, the financial obligations have been fulfilled, the site has been sealed and the injection facilities have been removed. After the transfer of responsibility, routine inspections cease and monitoring is reduced to a level which allows for detection of leakages or significant irregularities. If the permit has been withdrawn, the competent authority assumes the obligations mentioned above and recovers all the costs incurred from the former operator until the conditions for a definitive transfer of responsibility to the competent authority have been met (when all available evidence indicates that the stored CO2 will be completely and permanently contained).

Other provisions

Financial security or any other equivalent must be provided by the operator before submitting an application for a storage permit to ensure that the obligations relating to the operation, closure and post-closure of the storage site are met.

Member States must ensure that potential users are able to obtain fair, open access to CO2 transport networks and to CO2 storage sites. They must also put in place dispute settlement arrangements, cooperate with one another in cross-border situations, maintain a register of closed storage sites and forward it to the Commission and submit a report on the application of the Directive to the Commission, for the first time by 30 June 2011 and then every 3 years.


This Directive is part of the "energy and climate change" package launched by the Commission at the beginning of 2008.


Proposal Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2009/31/EC



OJ L 140 of 5.6.2009


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 23 January 2008 entitled "20 20 by 2020 - Europe's climate change opportunity" [COM(2008) 30 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In January 2008, the Commission adopted a series of coherent, comprehensive measures to achieve the objectives set by the EU in spring 2007 for 2020 in respect of climate change and renewable energies.

Last updated: 17.02.2011
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