Third carbon pipeline proposed for Iowa

By: - January 12, 2022 1:45 pm

(Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Another out-of-state company has announced a plan to build hundreds of miles of pipeline to transport carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and pump it into the ground.

Wolf Carbon Solutions said it has an agreement with Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) to take carbon dioxide from its facilities in Cedar Rapids and Clinton in eastern Iowa and transport it to an existing carbon sequestration site in Decatur, Illinois.

The pipeline would run about 350 miles and would have additional capacity to accommodate captured carbon from other facilities.

“We are delighted to share our expertise to further the effort to develop low-carbon fuels in the U.S.,” said David Schmunk, president of Wolf Carbon Solutions.

He said the company has operated one of the continent’s largest carbon pipelines in Canada. ADM owns the sequestration wells in Illinois.

The Iowa Utilities Board, which oversees the permit process for hazardous liquid pipelines, has not received formal word from Wolf that would start the process, said Don Tormey, a spokesperson for the board.

Steph Robertson, a Wolf spokesperson, said the company has had informal discussions with the Iowa Utilities Board “and intends to start the permit process in a timely fashion.” She declined to provide a map of the potential pipeline route.

It would be the third carbon pipeline proposed in recent months that would connect to ethanol and fertilizer plants in the state. Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures filed requests to hold public informational meetings for their proposed pipelines in August and October — the first step in the permit process.

Summit seeks to build about 700 miles of pipeline in the western and northern parts of the state to transport liquid carbon dioxide to North Dakota. Navigator wants to build about 900 miles of pipeline that would bisect the state from northwest to southeast and would branch out to counties in northern and eastern Iowa. That carbon would be sequestered in Illinois.

To help limit greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government gives tax credits to companies that capture and sequester the carbon they would otherwise expel. The Navigator pipeline alone could net hundreds of millions of dollars in credits each year for the owners of ethanol and fertilizer plants connected to it.

The companies have largely completed their public meetings, during which landowners and others get information about the projects and the permit process and can ask questions.

Opponents of the pipelines are concerned about leaks that could harm people, damage to farmland and the potential for the companies to use eminent domain to force residents to allow pipeline construction through their properties, among other concerns.

Several county boards of supervisors have filed written objections to the use of eminent domain for the projects.

After all the public meetings have concluded and a further 30 days have passed, the companies can apply for permits. Navigator has indicated it will apply in May. To approve a permit, the three-member Iowa Utilities Board must find that the project serves a “public convenience and necessity.”

Companies that receive permits can use eminent domain — at the discretion of the board — to build a pipeline on the properties of residents who refuse to give permission for easements. The board evaluates eminent domain requests on a case-by-case basis after talks have failed to produce a voluntary easement.

When the board approved the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 to transport oil through the state, it also granted virtually all requests for eminent domain of the privately owned land of about two dozen residents or groups of residents.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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