December 2023, Vol. 250, No. 12

Editor's Notebook

Editor’s Notebook: Trouble in the Heartland

By Michael Reed, Editor-in-Chief

(P&GJ) — It seems that even CO2 pipelines — a centerpiece of the Biden administration’s net zero greenhouse gas reductions policy — can’t catch a break when it comes to getting out of the starting block where permitting and public opinion are concerned.  

Navigator CO2 Ventures recently threw in the towel on its 1,300-mile (2,092-km) project, which would have crossed five states and was projected to capture 15 mtpa of carbon dioxide from ethanol plants.

For midstream and other energy sectors, along with larger farm groups, the possibility of storing CO2 deep beneath the earth’s surface brings with it the potential to open additional ethanol markets, while gaining federal tax credits in the process. 

“We are disappointed that we will not be able to provide services to our customers and thank them for their continued support,” Navigator CO2 CEO Matt Vining said of the cancellation. 

The news of the project’s demise didn’t really come as a surprise, considering how much of an uphill battle the company has fought over permitting during the last six months. 

In early October, Navigator pulled a permitting request pertaining to a CO2 facility in Illinois, where it had hoped to store some of the captured carbon. Prior to that, in September, a permitting application was denied by Iowa regulators, prior to the company being asked to delay it indefinitely. 

“As is consistent with our recent filings in neighboring jurisdictions, Navigator will be taking time to reassess the route and application,” the company said in a media release at the time. 

Undoubtedly, considerable pushback from residents of the states involved left elected officials and regulators with a lot to consider, especially on issues that touched on property rights and the use of eminent domain. 

Navigator had told residents who were located along the potential route that the company could resort to eminent domain, if necessary, though a public records search showed no evidence that such actions ever occurred. 

The fact that the proposed pipeline would have crossed into Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois — thereby involving varied permitting requirements — also added to the complexity of the undertaking. 

Navigator had partnered with the largest biofuel company in the U.S., South Dakota-based Poet, to capture the emissions of 18 plants in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. 

A Poet spokesperson pointed out that CCUS can benefit rural communities, by making ethanol production cleaner, adding that “states that are slow to adopt these technologies risk being left behind.” 

Separately, Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions is still planning to build about 2,000 miles (3,218 km) of CO2 pipeline across five states, with Wolf Carbon Solutions U.S. developing a 350-mile network in coordination with Archer-Daniels-Midland. 

This project has also faced setbacks, including permitting denials and opposition from landowners. Not to be dissuaded, the company — which has already pursued eminent domain orders, according to public records — said it expects its pipeline to be in operation in 2026, which would be two years later than it initially projected. 

Summit’s Midwest Carbon Express has claimed its project will be the largest carbon capture and storage project in the world, with a price tag of $5.5 billion and the capacity to gather CO2 from 34 facilities in five states. 

The project would collect CO2 from 34 ethanol facilities in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota, shipping it to west-central North Dakota, where as much as 18 million tons could be stored. 

When asked about the canceled Navigator project, Summit said in a media statement that the company is “well-positioned to add additional plants and communities to our project footprint.” 

Without a doubt, the struggle for both sides will go on for some time. However, with each delay, there is a financial toll absorbed by potential CO2 pipeline projects, present and future — despite $12 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill for CCUS projects and the backing of the White House.  

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 — known as the bipartisan infrastructure bill when it went through Congress — allocated $12 billion in funding for carbon capture, utilization and storage projects. 

Related Articles


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}