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Company proposes carbon capture project that would include Granite Falls Energy, other Minnesota ethanol plants

Granite Falls Energy is among 32 ethanol plants in five states interested in joining a network to capture carbon dioxide for permanent storage underground in North Dakota.

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Early spring corn emerges in a field near the Granite Falls Energy plant in this West Central Tribune file photo. Summit Carbon Solutions is proposing a $4.5 billion project to link this and 31 other ethanol plants with a 2,000-mile pipeline. It would carry carbon dioxide captured at each plant to North Dakota, where it would be permanently stored underground. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo
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GRANITE FALLS — A newly formed company is looking to develop what it believes will be the largest carbon capture and storage project in the world.

Summit Carbon Solutions , based in Ames, Iowa, wants to build a 2,000-mile pipeline to link 32 ethanol plants in five states.

Representatives of the company said the Granite Falls Energy ethanol plant in Granite Falls is one of the plants in Minnesota that will be connected to the proposed pipeline. They outlined the project to members of the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Jesse Harris, representing Summit Carbon Solutions, said the company would capture carbon dioxide now emitted to the atmosphere at each plant and compress it to a near liquid state for transport in the pipeline. The carbon dioxide would be moved to North Dakota and “safely and permanently” stored as much as one mile underground, according to Harris.

The project represents a $4.5 billion investment. It would capture 12 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. That’s the equivalent of taking 2.6 million vehicles off the road, according to Harris.

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He said the project would create up to 17,000 construction jobs, and anywhere from 350 to 460 permanent jobs for its operations. The plan calls for obtaining regulatory approval for construction in 2023 and the beginning of operations in 2024.

Minnesota does not have a statute governing pipelines for carbon dioxide. The company believes it will need counties where the line is proposed to develop their own permits for it.

He and company representatives said the proposed pipeline will be laid in parts of Redwood, Chippewa and Yellow Medicine counties. The Yellow Medicine County portion would run an estimated 15.6 miles and cross under the Minnesota River. The six-inch diameter pipeline would be placed a minimum of 25 feet under the river using horizontal directional drilling technology for a distance of about 800 feet.

Granite Falls Energy
Tank cars sit on railroad tracks in front of a Granite Falls Energy ethanol tank. Weak crude oil prices and strict safety measures have led some companies to convert tank cars to carry corn-based biofuel instead. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo

As currently proposed, a line from the Granite Falls Energy plant would run south to a network including the Highwater Ethanol plant in Lamberton and to the Heron Lake Bioenergy and two Green Plains plants in southern Minnesota. The Green Plains plant in Fergus Falls is also part of the proposal; a pipeline to the plant would run west to the Dakotas.

The 32 plants to be linked are located in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota.

The carbon dioxide produced at the plants is the result of fermentation, and can be readily captured. The technology has been in commercial use for decades and is well-proven, according to Harris.

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The project’s economics are based on the federal 45Q carbon capture tax credit, and expectations of being able to market the ethanol from the participating plants in states that have adopted low-carbon fuel standards.

Harris said the federal tax credit currently is for $45 per ton of captured and stored carbon dioxide. There are proposals in Congress to increase the credit to $80 and to extend the life of the program. The credit enjoys bipartisan support, he said.

California, Washington and Oregon have adopted low-carbon fuel standards. There is a proposal for Minnesota to consider the standards as well. It requires fuel producers to meet carbon intensity standards that take into account all of the carbon dioxide emissions associated with a given fuel, from production to consumption.

By participating in this project, the ethanol plants help assure their ability to market in states with low-carbon fuel standards. They also anticipate a premium price, he said.

The company will be meeting with local government units and both the Upper Sioux and Lower Sioux tribal governments, as well as landowners along the proposed route, to explain the project, according to the presentation to the commissioners.

Christina Brusven, of the Fredriksen and Byron law firm, is serving as counsel for the company. A native of Dawson, Brusven said the discussion with Yellow Medicine County is the initial conversation with those affected in this area. The company will be approaching landowners in hopes of obtaining voluntary right-of-way easements.

The attorney said the company will be asking the county to amend its ordinance on pipelines to make sure it includes carbon dioxide transport. Ultimately, the company will be asking the county for a conditional use permit, she said.

Related Topics: CARBON CAPTURE
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