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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Iowa Company Plans To Capture Midwest Ethanol Plants' Carbon Dioxide, Store It Underground

Summit Carbon Solutions in Alden, Iowa plans to build a pipeline to pump liquefied carbon dioxide from 18 biorefineries into central North Dakota to be stored deep underground.
Summit Carbon Solutions in Alden, Iowa plans to build a pipeline to pump liquefied carbon dioxide from 18 biorefineries into central North Dakota to be stored deep underground.

A new business in Iowa wants to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants. It would pave the way for biorefineries in Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas to deliver carbon-neutral fuel to the market.

Summit Carbon Solutions, a business platform formed by Alden-based Summit Agricultural Group, will need to get state and federal permits for an underground pipeline. The pipeline would pump liquefied carbon dioxide (CO2) from 18 biorefineries into central North Dakota and store it in porous canyons at least a mile underground.

The company plans to install equipment at the ethanol plants that will take CO2 off fermentation that would typically be emitted into the air and liquefy the gas. Each ethanol plant will have a small 6-inch pipeline to carry the CO2 to the main pipeline that will pump it to North Dakota.

Summit Agricultural Group CEO Bruce Rastetter said the project would be the “world’s largest carbon sequestration project to date.” It would take 10 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year, which is equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road annually. Rastetter said it will lower the biorefineries’ carbon footprints.

“[It] will allow them also to access and sell into more low carbon fuel markets, which are continuing to grow across the country,” Rastetter said.

That includes California, which has regulations that incentivize the production and use of low carbon fuels.

The project will cost $2 billion. Rastetter said Summit Carbon Solutions is partnering with the 18 ethanol plants on the cost and using tax credits to help fund the project.

Fermentation, the process of converting sugar into ethanol, generates a lot of carbon dioxide, which is a major greenhouse gas that traps heat and accelerates rises in global temperature. Geoff Cooper, the president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said capturing and sequestering that CO2 could be a “game changer” for the ethanol industry.

“And frankly, puts ethanol from corn, ethanol from these facilities on an even keel with the best electric vehicles that are out there in terms of their carbon footprint,” Cooper said. 

 

A map shows the ethanol plants across the Midwest participating in Summit Carbon Solutions' carbon capture project.
Credit Summit Carbon Solutions
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A map shows the ethanol plants across the Midwest participating in Summit Carbon Solutions' carbon capture project.

President Joe Biden has pledged for the U.S. to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country, accounting for nearly 30 percent of emissions in 2018. Cooper said if the ethanol industry can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions from transportation, that would be a big step towards net-zero emissions.

“That's why the industry is so interested in pursuing these sorts of technologies that can reduce the carbon intensity of fuel ethanol that's going into vehicles," Cooper said. “Certainly carbon capture is one way to do that.”

Summit Carbon Solutions expects the pipeline project to be up and running in 2024.

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