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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.