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Environmental group urges west central Minnesota counties to take hard look at proposed carbon pipeline

The Montevideo-based nonprofit Clean Up the River Environment told the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners its concerns about risks associated with what would be a first-of-its-kind project by Summit Carbon Solutions. The $4.5 billion project would build a five-state, 2,000-mile pipeline network — with about 200 miles in Minnesota — to transport carbon dioxide from ethanol plants for sequestration in North Dakota.

Portrait of PegFurshong, Clean Up the River Environment operations and director of programs
Peg Furshong
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GRANITE FALLS — Area counties are being urged to take a hard look at the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline for the possible risks and financial burdens it may bring.

Peg Furshong, operations and director of programs for the Montevideo-based nonprofit Clean Up the River Environment, told the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the organization has a number of concerns about the proposed pipeline.

Summit Carbon Solutions of Ames, Iowa, is proposing a $4.5 billion, five-state project to transport carbon dioxide from ethanol plants for sequestration in North Dakota.

The company is proposing just over 200 miles of pipeline in Minnesota, including connections to the Granite Falls Energy ethanol plant in Granite Falls and the Bushmills Ethanol plant near Atwater.

“We’ve never had a project like this before in the state. There are a lot of unknowns,” Furshong told the commissioners.

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A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project

The CURE organization — which works in areas that include climate, energy and water — has two chief concerns: What Furshong said was a lack of transparency by company officials, and the risks that a pipeline rupture, spill or leak could create.

While the company has held public meetings in the area, the only people who have been invited to them have been the people from whom the company is seeking to acquire easements for the pipeline, Furshong told the commissioners.

She said the pipeline would carry liquefied carbon dioxide at high pressure, between 1,200 to 2,800 pounds per square inch, or more than twice the pressure used for natural gas pipelines. Carbon dioxide is an odorless and invisible gas that is heavier than air. It can asphyxiate by displacement of air.

Emergency medical services personnel could be put at risk when responding to any spill or rupture, said Furshong.

Most local responder units don’t have the equipment they would need to respond to these types of emergencies, according to Furshong. Their vehicles would not operate in a carbon dioxide pool of air.

CURE is raising concerns about both the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline and a separate pipeline project known as Navigator. The organization initiated the request for the state to perform an environmental review of the two projects. The state is determining whether to classify them as either an energy, agricultural, waste, transmission or pipeline project. Each of these classifications carry different requirements, she said.

Summit Carbon SolutionsYMSKM_454e22040814050_0001 (1).jpg
The proposed route of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline in Yellow Medicine County is nearly 14 miles.
Summit Carbon Solutions graphic

Furshong said CURE has been hosting meetings for affected landowners. The easements sought by Summit Carbon Solutions are permanent, and could be sold by the company if the pipeline project does not occur.

She said there have been instances where the out-of-state company has attempted to purchase some farmland that has come up for sale at auctions, including one sale in Yellow Medicine County. This had made some landowners disgruntled, she said.

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Furshong said counties should also be mindful of the costs they could incur in inspecting a pipeline and responding to concerns from landowners and others. Counties in some states have discussed assessing annual “community benefits” fees on the company as compensation for the costs.

Furshong said she has read accounts indicating that the process of capturing and transporting carbon dioxide could require nearly as much energy as the ethanol being produced. She also said there is no certainty that carbon dioxide can be permanently sequestered underground as described by the Summit Carbon Solutions project.

An ADM facility in Illinois currently has the only large-sized sequestration system, she said. Other projects are pumping carbon dioxide underground to push up oil in shale deposits for oil wells.

“Rural communities are front-line communities,” Furshong said. “We want to be sure if this pipeline happens, rural communities aren’t compromised so out-of-state companies can make millions of dollars.”

Commissioner Greg Renneke’s district includes much of the 13.96 miles of pipeline proposed in Yellow Medicine County. He said he has heard concerns from a landowner who wants to protect native prairie from being trenched for the pipeline.

Commissioner Gary Johnson questioned CURE’s opposition to the pipeline and noted that without a pipeline, the carbon dioxide would continue to be emitted into the atmosphere. He also noted that hazardous materials — from propane to anhydrous ammonia — are routinely transported today, and that first responder and law enforcement units are trained to respond to emergencies involving them.

Summit Carbon Solutions SKM_454e22040814040_0001.jpg
The proposed route of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline in Redwood County is shown.
Summit Carbon Solutions graphic

Related Topics: CARBON CAPTURE
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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