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Summit Carbon Solutions shares pipeline plans in Kandiyohi County

Some concerns were raised about the possible environmental and public safety impacts the project could have.

The Bushmills Ethanol Plant in Atwater on July 19, 2022.
The Bushmills Ethanol Plant near Atwater is shown July 19, 2022. Bushmills entered into a partnership with Summit Carbon Solutions in April to take part in a planned carbon capture and storage project. If completed, the project would take the CO2 emissions from Bushmills and other Midwest ethanol plants and store it permanently underground.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Summit Carbon Solutions, of Ames, Iowa, has a plan that the company says could help reduce the carbon emissions of more than 30 Midwestern ethanol plants, including Bushmills Ethanol of Atwater.

The proposed pipeline project, if successful, would capture a reported 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from those facilities. Instead of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, the pipeline would transport it to a permanent underground storage site in North Dakota.

To do it, the company will need to construct nearly 2,000 miles of pipeline across Iowa, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota.

On Tuesday, representatives from Summit Carbon presented their plan to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners in Willmar. Approximately 27 miles of pipeline would need to be constructed within the county, to connect Bushmills with the larger pipeline network.

"Kandiyohi County is our newest county," said Joe Caruso, Minnesota external affairs coordinator with Summit Carbon Solutions.

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Proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline route through Minnesota as of May 31, 2022.
The proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline route through Minnesota is shown as of May 31, 2022. The project would connect several Minnesota ethanol plants, including Bushmills Ethanol and Granite Falls Energy, to the larger carbon capture and storage network.
Contributed / Summit Carbon Solutions

Project framework

Carbon capture and storage is not new technology and is starting to expand across the country as energy producers look for ways to decrease their carbon emissions. Summit says it will not be using the captured CO2 for oil drilling. Instead, to capture the maximum financial benefits from the federal tax credit called 45Q, the company will be permanently storing the captured CO2.

"We have nothing to do with the oil and gas industry," Caruso said. "We are focused exclusively on helping the ethanol industry remain competitive and sustainable as an alternative fuel."

Once the pipeline is constructed — if everything goes to plan with permitting and land easements, construction will begin next year — the partner ethanol plants, such as Bushmills and Granite Falls Energy, will collect their CO2 emissions, compress the carbon dioxide into a near liquid state and then send it through the pipeline network. That CO2 will eventually be stored deep underground in North Dakota.

The overall goal of the Summit project is to reduce the carbon emissions of its partner plants. Doing so would reportedly help keep ethanol sustainable for both the farmers who grow the corn and the ethanol plants, while also making the finished product more environmentally friendly.

"The catalyst of this project is out of the ag industry," Caruso said.

The majority of the pipeline will be constructed underground, at a minimum depth of 4.5 feet. Minnesota is set to have just under 200 miles of pipeline constructed. Pipe sizes will range from 6 to 8 inches.

Map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline route through Kandiyohi County, as of May 31, 2022.
Map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline route through Kandiyohi County as of May 31, 2022.
Contributed / Summit Carbon Solutions

The current route in Kandiyohi County starts from the Bushmills Ethanol plant and travels southwest across the county, until it reaches the Chippewa County border. This line of the pipeline will eventually connect with Granite Falls Energy before heading south to connect with other ethanol plants before reaching the Minnesota-Iowa border.

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The project is estimated to cost around $4.5 billion, with Summit already having raised more than $1 billion. Caruso said the company estimates it will spend about $461 million in Minnesota building the pipeline and another $21 million a year operating it. Kandiyohi County is estimated to see about $1.8 million in estimated property taxes from the project, Caruso reported.

A truck departs the Bushmills Ethanol Plant in Atwater on July 19, 2022.
A truck departs the Bushmills Ethanol Plant near Atwater on July 19, 2022. Bushmills is one of dozens of Midwestern ethanol plants signed on to the Summit Carbon Solutions project. Six of those plants are located in Minnesota.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Safety and environmental concerns

There were some concerns raised about the project by County Commissioner Steve Gardner, specifically around the environmental and safety impacts of the project.

While C02 pipelines have reported no deaths and relatively few injuries over the last 20 years, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the technology doesn't have a spotless safety record.

In February 2020 a CO2 pipeline running near Satartia, Mississippi, ruptured, causing 31,405 barrels of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere. Approximately 45 people were hospitalized due to CO2 exposure, though no one died. The pipeline's operator Denbury was fined just under $4 million for the accident.

CO2 is heavier than air and can displace the oxygen in the atmosphere. Humans, if exposed to high enough levels, can die from CO2 by asphyxiation.

Caruso agreed the Satartia rupture was a catastrophic accident. There will be many safety details built into the Summit pipeline project. This includes safety valves, 24/7 monitoring of the pipeline, the creation of an emergency response plan and training of local emergency responders.

Addressing landowner concerns

In April and June, Summit held public meetings across the impacted Minnesota counties, which in addition to Kandiyohi, include portions of Chippewa, Renville, Redwood and Yellow Medicine. The meetings gave Summit the opportunity to speak with landowners along the proposed route.

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One of the top concerns was the use of eminent domain if landowners refused to participate in the project. While Summit has asked to use eminent domain in Iowa, it does not have the legal right in Minnesota.

"We have no legal framework, no legal perspective, on having eminent domain in Minnesota for this project," Caruso said. "That defused a lot of the anxiety in the public meetings."

SummitCarbonSolutionsDSC_0031.JPG
Chris Hill, director of environment and permitting for Summit Carbon Solutions, second from right, visits with attendees at the company's meeting for landowners in Sacred Heart on April 7, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo

Summit wants to enter into voluntary easement agreements with all those landowners. Those easements would allow a portion of the pipeline to be constructed and maintained across their properties. Caruso reported that landowner interest has been good, with more than 75% of those asked giving verbal permission for the company to begin the land surveying portion of the easement process.

If those surveys come back positive, Caruso said Summit will then enter into financial negotiations with the landowner for a 50-foot permanent easement and a 50-foot temporary construction easement. In addition to a base payment for allowing the pipeline on the property, Summit will also be paying the landowner damages for loss of land production for three years.

Summit will also be contractually obligated to restore all surface and subsurface drainage systems to pre-construction levels. The company has hired Ellingson as its drain tile contractor.

"If we don't get back to full productivity in year four, it is our problem and we will need to remedy the situation," Caruso said.

The current proposed route of the pipeline is not written in stone and is constantly being updated, Caruso said. Summit will not force the pipeline to go through a certain parcel if it doesn't work.

"If any of the three surveys — environmental, cultural or civil — fail, or we can't come to an agreement with the landowner, we are going to have to move the route," Caruso said.

More on Summit Carbon Solutions:
Navigator CO2 Ventures is hoping to streamline the application process in Illinois as they add an additional pipeline to the mix.
Green Plains Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska, is a company that markets corn ethanol coproducts and is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into equipment bolt-ons at their own ethanol plants.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met on Jan. 5, 2023, to consider the application for Summit Carbon Solutions.
Summit says proceedings could start in March; other parties ask for more time. The pipeline route includes North Dakota, southeast South Dakota, and soutwest and western Minnesota.
Public hearings in South Dakota on the pipeline have been set for November. Other states on the route are Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois, with a site in Illinois designated for storing the liquid carbon dioxide. South Dakota-based POET has 18 ethanol plants included in the project.
Many may not know, but Minnesota’s ethanol industry is the third largest in the United States and is responsible for purchasing and beginning the value-added processing of over half of the corn crop produced in the state.
A group of farmers near Leola, South Dakota, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, say they are ethanol supporters but that the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline will cause them far more than what the company is paying for easements. They also say the lurking threat of eminent domain is inappropriate because the pipeline is not for a public utility. They think the long-term strategy of installing a pipeline to satisfy what may be of environmentally uncertain value is wrong, substituting their loss for likely a temporary gain for ethanol and pipeline investors.
Summit Carbon Solutions proposes pipeline to transport carbon from Jackson County ethanol plant.
Dear Editor,
"The easiest way to stop the carbon buildup is to quit burning fossil fuels, move to efficiency, green building and renewables. ... Instead of the common sense approach, there’s an even more crazy idea now, an awfully expensive set of experimental technologies .."

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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