116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Eastern Iowa landowners with property on or near the route of a proposed carbon sequestration pipeline are receiving letters from Navigator CO2 Ventures, telling them of public meetings about the project and that, after the meetings, they could be approached about pipeline easements on their land.
The meetings start Monday and run through early January.
Navigator, a Texas company, is proposing a 1,300-mile pipeline that would pass through 36 Iowa counties, including Linn, Benton, Cedar, Delaware and Iowa, capturing carbon dioxide at ethanol and fertilizer plants. The gas would be put under pressure, turned into liquid and piped to a sequestration site in western Illinois.
There, the liquid carbon would be injected into rock formations, where it would calcify and be permanently stored. The idea, which scientists say can work, would keep carbon dioxide out of the air, where it contributes to global warming.
The goal of Navigator’s proposed $3 billion project is to sequester up to 15 million metric tons of CO2.
Idea could help ethanol
The Navigator project is one of two carbon capture pipelines proposed for Iowa. The other, by Summit Carbon Solutions, is a 2,000-mile pipeline through western and north-central Iowa.
Ethanol plant officials hope that by sequestering the greenhouse gases produced at their facilities, they can lower their carbon intensity score and be able to sell the biofuel in states, like California and Oregon, with low-carbon fuel standards.
The Navigator project allows the ethanol and fertilizer plants producing carbon dioxide to claim a federal tax credit worth up to $50 a metric ton for permanently stored carbon. The plants would pay Navigator a set rate for however much carbon dioxide they move through the pipeline.
Summit’s plan calls for keeping the federal tax credit and sharing the value of California fuel standard credits with ethanol plants, according to Grist, a news nonprofit that covers climate solutions.
“These projects have a unique touchpoint to the agricultural community,” Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, a Navigator vice president, told The Gazette.
Burns-Thompson, who grew up on a farm near Alburnett and now lives in Altoona, said carbon sequestration “has the potential to help keep those (ethanol and fertilizer) plants vital not only for years to come, but decades to come.”
Concerns about idea
Environmental groups and some Iowans in the path of the pipelines have raised concerns, including risks of leaks and explosions and the potential damage to farmland.
In February 2020, a pipeline carrying CO2 and hydrogen sulfide ruptured in Mississippi, sickening motorists and residents near the site, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper reported. That pipeline is owned by Denbury Resources, of Texas, which focuses on using CO2 to enhance petroleum recovery, the article reported.
The hydrogen sulfide in the pipeline worsened some of the symptoms, including shortness of breath, nausea and disorientation, an investigation showed.
The Iowa projects would transport only CO2, according to the companies, which they have said will not be used for oil recovery.
Summit intends to inject the carbon dioxide into rock formations in North Dakota, while the Navigator CO2 would go into Illinois rock. While scientists say this process can work, questions remain whether the gases would leak over time or cause seismic tremors.
“All things considered, it seems like a bad idea,” said Marian Kuper, 68, who lives with her husband, Keith, near Ackley in Hardin County in north-central Iowa.
They have received a packet indicating the Navigator project would go through the land they once farmed and now lease to a neighbor.
Kuper is planning to attend a Dec. 15 meeting in Hardin County to hear more about Navigator’s proposal. She wants to hear how the company will guard against leaks and whether it has determined a life-cycle cost for the project, among other things.
Easements and eminent domain
Navigator’s pipeline would range from 6 inches to 24 inches in diameter, and the line would be buried at least 5 feet underground, Burns-Thompson said.
“The best way to minimize risk is to go a little bit deeper,” she said. “Then you minimize some of those risks of a line strike.”
As soon as the informational meetings are held in each county, land agents may talk with landowners about easements.
Navigator plans to negotiate permanent easements for the pipeline and temporary easements for construction. The company will offer three years of compensation for crop loss in the area, Burns-Thompson said.
Like Summit, Navigator has said it would consider using eminent domain — if granted permission from state regulators — as a last resort if it can’t obtain voluntary easements.
A group of landowners asked the Iowa Utilities Board to release Summit’s full list of landowners on the proposed pipeline route, but Summit resisted and the board denied the request. Burns-Thompson said Navigator still is deciding whether it would make public its list of potentially-impacted landowners.
What happens next?
Once the informational meetings are held, including a Jan. 19 virtual meeting, Navigator plans to submit a permit application to the Iowa Utilities Board by May.
Jennifer Easler, a consumer advocate with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, will consider construction, safety, route and use, among other considerations, as part of her review of the application.
If Navigator gets approval by the Iowa regulators, and comparable groups in Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Illinois as well as the federal government, the company would start construction in 2023 with the goal of being operational in late 2024 or early 2025.
“We’re Building from the sequestration site and out,” Burns-Thompson said. “That allows us to bring facilities online as soon as possible.”
Here are the meetings Navigator Ventures will be hosting in Eastern Iowa about its proposed carbon sequestration pipeline that would run through these counties:
- Delaware County: Noon Dec. 6, the Gathering Place, 1711 N. Second St., Manchester
- Linn County: 6 p.m. Dec. 6, Veterans Memorial Building (coliseum), Second Avenue Bridge, Cedar Rapids
- Cedar County: 6 p.m. Dec. 7, Cedar County Fairgrounds (Matthews Building), 220th Street, Tipton
- Benton County: Noon Jan. 3, Norway Community Center, 210 South St., Norway
- Iowa County: 6 p.m. Jan. 3, Price Creek Event Center, 4709 220th Trail, Amana
- Virtual meeting: 6 p.m. Jan. 19
For a schedule of all the informational meetings in the state and to see records filed in this case, go to the Iowa Utilities Board website at iub.iowa.gov.
For a full schedule of all meetings and to see records filed in this case, go to the Utilities Board’s website.
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