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Pipeline safety a concern

Rich Egger
Navigator's Elizabeth Burns-Thompson addresses the crowd during the January 11, 2022, information meeting at the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center in Macomb.

Safety concerns were raised during an informational meeting about a proposed pipeline through the region.

The project will capture carbon dioxide from ethanol and fertilizer plants in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The carbon dioxide will be dehydrated and then compressed into a liquid that will be sent through carbon steel pipes to a sequestration site in Christian County in south central Illinois.

Navigator Heartland Greenway, which hosted the meeting, will run the pipeline through 10 counties in this region: McDonough, Knox, Schuyler, Fulton, Hancock, Adams, and Brown in western Illinois and Lee, Des Moines, and Van Buren in southeastern Iowa.

An asphyxiant

At the meeting in Macomb, McDonough County board member Mike Kirby said he’s concerned because pipes sometimes fail. He said if the pressurized liquid is released, it will convert into a gas.

“And then that gaseous CO2, (which) is heavier than the air, displaces the air around the leak, so any people or animals in that area of the leak will be asphyxiated due to a lack of breathable oxygen,” he said.

Kirby thinks the pipeline could become more dangerous over time as the pipe slowly corrodes.

The Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance (CIHCA), which describes itself as a coalition of individuals and organizations committed to creating a sustainable and healthy community for central Illinois, is also concerned about the project.

The group said a CO2 pipeline explosion in February 2020, spread a gas cloud over Sartartia, Mississippi, sickening people across the town.

Navigator’s Perspective

Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Navigator, also said the liquified CO2 can become an asphyxiant. She said that’s why the company strives to work with local EMS crews to make sure they’re well-trained and well-equipped to handle an emergency.     

“We have a good portion of our budget allocated already for the investment of those tools and technologies,” she said. “There’s a number of different equipment pieces that they could potentially need as part of the tools in their toolbox and we’re ready and willing to provide those.”

Burns-Thompson said carbon capture and storage technology is not new. She said it’s been used around the world for decades.

She also said the company is ready to negotiate with landowners in order to run the line through their properties. She said Navigator will need about a 50-foot easement for the pipeline.

Navigator must also receive a permit from the Illinois Commerce Commission and various permits from other states and the federal government.

Burns-Thompson said the project will cost around $3 billion, funded through private equity.

Construction is slated for 2024.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.