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Speech to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Early Adopters' Seminar - 21 May 2010

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair

Welcome to this very important seminar chaired jointly by the 3 UK regulators: HSE, Environment Agency and SEPA. We are all committed to bringing the early adopters of Carbon, Capture and Storage Technology together - industry, academia, government departments and regulatory partners drawn not just from the UK but internationally also. By the end of today, our hope is that we will have built a shared understanding on a number of key issues related to CCS.

These include:

Immediately after me, you will hear from Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency and Campbell Gemmell, Chief Executive of SEPA. Each of us will then, in turn, chair parts of the seminar.

As an engineer and a great believer in the importance of technological innovation, as well as being Chair of HSE, it is a great privilege for me to open this seminar today. It is also particularly pleasing for me personally that the event is taking place here at my alma mater, Imperial College - and I thank them for hosting this important seminar today.

Now is the ideal time to be convening this seminar of early adopters on Health, Safety and Environmental regulatory aspects of the CCS chain from power station to storage, because:

So now, let me kick off this event with some opening remarks about HSE's work and our perspective on CCS.

HSE has long since positioned itself to respond to the Government's full climate change and energy agendas by formulating an organisational strategy that positions us as both a responsible and enabling regulator.

Our independence and neutrality in this strategically important debate is also key. We have a role to play in leading a health and safety system which applies to onshore gas storage, offshore oil and gas production, new nuclear build and offshore renewable technologies and of course: carbon capture and storage. In some of these fields our knowledge and expertise has been built up over many years so we understand that strong and independent regulation of the health and safety aspects of all these technologies is essential to building public confidence.

We are contributing to and promoting research through our own Health and Safety Laboratory in Buxton and externally. At this stage in the process, it is inevitable that there will still be unknowns but we are filling those gaps as well as learning more about what we don't know. We are building our own knowledge and expertise in emerging energy technologies, so that we can continue to be an appropriately expert organisation to develop and deliver the most effective and proportionate level of regulation.

We are working closely with SEPA and EA and playing our part in verifying that CCS technology is proven and contributing to the technical assessment of DECC's CCS competition.

We need to have regulation which is right - for now and for the future and which meets the principles of better regulation, and we need to ensure alignment with the approach to CCS and CO2 being taken within the EU and internationally.

We have stated in our new strategy that it is part of HSE's role to position our work in the broader context. In the case of CCS this means:

We are impartial and objective but we are not indifferent. Building process safety and asset integrity into the design of any new technology is neither a burden nor a 'nice to do'. It is fundamental. And to do it successfully, we must first understand the risks and then take the appropriate steps to mitigate them, through design and regulation. But before we can, we have to think about those scenarios that naturally we'd rather not, because only by doing so are we going to ensure that they never happen.

I am looking forward to a very interesting and thought provoking debate today, and I am sure you are too. I would now like to hand over to one of my co-chairs for today - Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency.

Updated 2010-05-25