Iowa, Texas companies propose multi-billion-dollar carbon-capture pipelines across Iowa, Midwest – Des Moines Register

Companies in Iowa and Texas plan to build pipelines across the state that will capture carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol, fertilizer and other industrial plants before being permanently sequestered.

Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures said this week it needs to expand by 50% the capacity of its 1,200-mile pipeline, which it first announced plans to build in March.

The Dallas company plans to accept carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants and other agricultural manufacturers in Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois, where it will be sequestered.

In Iowa, Bruce Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group said earlier this year that it was creating Summit Carbon Solutions, which plans to accept carbon emissions from biofuel facilities across Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The Alden company plans to sequester the carbon in North Dakota.

Both companies want to capture the carbon dioxide emissions before they’re released into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming, compressing them into a liquid so it can be transported and injected it into underground rock formations.

Navigator CEO Matt Vining said that company’s project will cost “in excess of $2 billion.” Summit Carbon’s project is estimated to cost $4 billion, said Justin Kirchhoff, president of Summit Ag Investors.

Navigator CO2 Ventures proposes building a 1,200 pipeline through Iowa that will be used to capture carbon dioxide emissions that will be liquefied and sequestered in Illinois.

Navigator CO2 plans to sequester 12 million metric tons per year; Summit Carbon anticipates needing capacity to sequester at least 10 million tons annually.

Vining said the carbon injected into rock formations thousands of feet underground calcifies, keeping it permanently locked into place. The projects must undergo extensive federal and state environmental review before they’re approved, he said, and require long-term monitoring after they end.

Kirchhoff said Summit is working with 10 Iowa ethanol companies as well as about 20 others across the Midwest. Vining declined to say exactly how many ethanol businesses the company is working with, but added that the number is growing, prompting the need to expand capacity.

Navigator announced in March that Valero Energy Corp. would be its anchor customer.

Both Kirchhoff and Vining said renewable fuels plants can use carbon sequestration to qualify themselves to sell ethanol and other biofuels in states like California, which require low-carbon fuels. Kirchhoff said the Iowa project can cut carbon emissions from ethanol plants in half.

An employee at Siouxland Energy Cooperative monitors the flow of corn out of one of the ethanol plant's storage bins and into a truck to be sold elsewhere while the plant sits idle on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, outside of Sioux Center. Siouxland's board of directors chose to halt ethanol production after the Environmental Protection Agency granted 31 waivers to small oil refiners allowing them to not blend ethanol in their gasoline.

Although the exact path of Navigator’s pipeline is still being decided, Vining said the company is beginning talks with landowners about leasing land for the pipeline. Summit hasn’t yet outlined the route for its pipeline.

Rastetter, a Republican mover and shaker in Iowa, hired Terry Branstad, the former U.S. ambassador to China and a former Republican governor, in March as a senior policy advisor.

Branstad has been a longtime “supporter of Iowa and Midwest agriculture and biofuels and he’s a huge supporter of this project,” said Kirchhoff, adding that the former ambassador will lead the company’s communication on the project, “whether it’s (with) Midwestern farmland owners or regulatory agencies.”

While oil and gas pipelines have been controversial, with several environmental and indigenous groups opposing them, Venture’s Vining said he believes a climate-friendly pipeline will be better received.

“Capturing CO2 from the environment is in the public’s best interest … it’s a public need,” he said.

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At full capacity, Navigator says its carbon capture pipeline would have the environmental benefits equal to removing 2.6 million cars from the road annually or planting 550 million trees each year.

Carbon capture and storage projects have the ability to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by almost one-fifth, and to lower the cost of addressing climate change by 70%, Navigator said, pointing to data from the International Energy Agency.

Vining said his company isn’t concerned about the Biden administration’s push toward electric vehicles. Renewable fuel advocates have worried that it could cut demand for ethanol and biodiesel.

“Liquid fuels will play a role” in powering vehicles “in the foreseeable future,” Vining said. 

Navigator expects to begin phasing in operations in late 2024. Summit Carbon Solutions expects to be operational in the first half of 2024.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at deller@registermedia.com or 515-284-8457.

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