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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Whether it’s from state officials in Des Moines or companies based as far away as Texas, optimism has been growing about Iowa’s future in carbon sequestration.
“It has the potential to revolutionize not only the ag business, but certainly related industry as well,” said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Finance Authority.
Carbon sequestration involves taking the carbon dioxide that usually would be released in a smoke stack, compressing it and transporting it via pipeline and injecting it into the ground.
“Essentially what we’re doing is we’re coming in and we’re putting a physical cap on the stack,” Matt Vining, CEO of Dallas-based Navigator Energy Services, told The Gazette.
The compression of the carbon dioxide turns the gas into a liquid, Vining said, and therefore “highly efficient to transport via pipeline.”
Vining said the liquid then “actually calcifies and becomes part of the rock” after injection.
Ethanol is one of the “related industries” Durham sees carbon sequestration affecting.
Carbon capture pipelines can help Iowa ethanol plants “maintain a competitive advantage,” Durham said, as many states and some countries implement low-carbon fuel standards that gives better pricing to lower-carbon fuels.
That competitive advantage, Vining noted, can be as high as 20 to 40 cents per gallon.
Ethanol facilities also can receive 45Q federal tax credits — credits given to facilities that capture and store CO2 — Vining said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has taken notice of the potential for carbon sequestration in Iowa, signing an executive order to create a carbon sequestration task force in June.
Durham is on that task force and said its work will go beyond carbon sequestration and look at bigger-picture carbon management.
“I believe, based on what I’ve seen, that we will be leading the nation in one of the most comprehensive studies on this carbon management,” Durham said this past week.
“I’m extremely excited about this and anxious to get to work.”
There will be a bit of a delay before that work can begin, though, as the task force working groups get filled and the state picks a consultant, Durham explained.
The route through Iowa
Justin Kirchhoff, president of Alden-based Summit Ag Investors, and Navigator Energy’s Vining are continuing work on proposed carbon sequestration pipelines.
Navigator Energy’s proposed pipeline would run from northwest Iowa to southeast Iowa with the injection site sitting in central Illinois.
That route isn’t permanent, though.
Vining expects the central Illinois carbon sequestration reservoir to last about 25 years before becoming full of calcified carbon.
“The project, in order to continue to extend its useful life, will constantly be developing new sequestration sites,” Vining said.
Those might not always be in Illinois. He also pointed to Nebraska and South Dakota as states with geological pockets that are “very conducive to carbon sequestration.”
“We may start in Illinois, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the end all, be all for sequestration sites,” Vining said.
Summit Ag Investors, which Kirchhoff leads, is “broadly speaking” looking at northern and southwest Iowa, Nebraska, southern Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
It already has more than 30 long-term agreements with ethanol facilities.
Both projects have plenty of regulatory hurdles before beginning work. Vining expects permitting to take two years as Navigator works with utilities boards in each state.
Summit Ag hired Terry Branstad, former Iowa governor and U.S. ambassador to China, as its senior policy adviser.
Summit Ag Investors is part of Summit Agricultural Group, whose founder and CEO is Bruce Rastetter, a former president of the Iowa Board of Regents and a donor to Republican candidates.
Navigator Energy has not made a decision on whether to use eminent domain although the “overarching goal is to work closely with landowners on a path that works for everyone involved,” Vining said.
Summit Ag similarly hopes “to not use eminent domain.”
“We’ve got a pretty good value proposition for landowners in Iowa,” Kirchhoff said.
Both Vining and Kirchhoff pointed to the benefits to ethanol, which then could help farmers. The underground pipeline also allows farmers to continue to use the land after the pipeline is built.
“After we’re done, they wouldn’t know we were there,” Kirchhoff said.
Vining said the pipeline infrastructure has about a 50-year life span.
Navigator Energy views Summit more as an ally in the same fight than a competitor in the same industry.
“We can co-exist with one another,” Vining said.
“We almost have to co-exist because there’s more than enough emissions that need to get dealt with here.”
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