Carbon Pipelines are not the answer to rural prosperity, vibrant communities, thriving ecosystems, or a livable climate. Rural Minnesotans need a say in the future of our land, water, energy, infrastructure, and the economic opportunities that will impact our lives, livelihoods, and communities.
Two companies—Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator Ventures—are separately proposing two Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) pipelines for Minnesota. These pipelines would carry carbon dioxide (CO2) “captured” from dozens of Midwest ethanol plants and other industrial facilities. CCUS is a complicated and largely unproven process, but the basic premise is that CO2 emissions are removed at the industrial source, transported, and then stored underground or reused for industrial purposes.
The companies behind the CO2 pipelines in Minnesota claim that all the CO2 will be transported to underground storage sites. But in reality, the majority of the carbon captured today is used for more fossil fuel extraction in a process called Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). In EOR, carbon is injected into underground wells to help unearth even more oil and natural gas.
Summit Carbon Solutions | Midwest Carbon Express Pipeline
Proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions (a subsidiary of Summit Agricultural Group), the Midwest Express Pipeline connects ethanol plants and other industrial ag facilities in five states with a pipeline that leads to North Dakota. In Minnesota, Summit has contracts with ethanol plants in Fairmont, Fergus Falls, Granite Falls, Heron Lake, and Lamberton. The northern branch of the pipeline will run through Otter Tail and Wilkin Counties. The southern branch will run through Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Martin, Redwood, Renville, and Yellow Medicine Counties.
In public statements, the company maintains that the CO2 will all be permanently sequestered in ND but Summit CEO Bruce Rastetter is on record as saying the project would not be possible without the prospect for EOR.
Summit has been moving quickly to have landowners sign permanent easements that only compensate landowners for three years. Farmers and landowners are taking the risk of lower crop yields and living and working next to a hazardous liquid pipeline while Summit will reap the reward of hundreds of millions of dollars per year coming from taxpayer dollars via the 45Q tax credit.
Navigator CO2 Ventures’ | Heartland Greenway Pipeline
Navigator CO2 Ventures’ pipeline, also referred to as the Heartland Greenway Pipeline, would connect ethanol refineries and other undefined “industrial sources” in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota to a pipeline that terminates in Illinois where the CO2 will likely be used for EOR or for storage underground. Other partners in the project include fossil fuel refining giant Valero Energy, natural gas distributor Tenaska Inc., and Advanced Resources Intl which specializes in EOR. In Minnesota, Navigator has contracted with an ethanol plant in Welcome and the pipeline will run through Martin County. Navigator will also take advantage of the 45Q tax credit.
Concentrated CO2 acidifies water—pipeline leaks or ruptures can acidify wells, aquifers, and surface waters like lakes and rivers. (carbonic acid; change in pH buffering)
CO2 is an asphyxiant and can cause harm to humans and animals.
Liquified CO2 sinks and spreads, needing wind/ weather to move it out.
The pipeline must be pressurized at three times the rate of a natural gas pipeline. (1,200 to 2,800 psi)
CO2 is colorless and odorless.
Local EMS response units are rarely equipped to manage a leak or rupture of this nature and under this type of pressure. This is particularly true in rural places.
Sequestering Carbon in this manner requires that the geological formation you inject the carbon into is stable. We know from experience that the geology around fracking wells is not stable and there have been numerous leaks.
Minnesota Process & Regulations on CO2 Pipelines
Minnesota Statutes section 216G assigns the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as the agency in charge of the permitting process for pipeline routing in the state. Under this statute, no entity may construct a pipeline without first obtaining a routing permit from the PUC. But not all pipelines are subject to this requirement. As is relevant to CCUS pipelines, section 216G only applies to pipelines “with a nominal diameter of six inches or more that is designed to transport hazardous liquids.”
Although the statute uses “hazardous liquid” broadly without providing a definition of the term, the PUC’s definition of the term, found in Minnesota Rules 7852.0100, subpart 18, includes “petroleum, petroleum products, or anhydrous ammonia.” Currently, the PUC is considering whether to open a rulemaking proceeding to amend its own definition of “hazardous liquids” to explicitly include liquid carbon dioxide. A copy of the PUC’s notice of comment period can be found here.
Depending on the pipeline’s proposed location, it may be subject to additional regulation, including water crossing permits under Minnesota Statutes section 84.415, subdivision 1, public waters permits under Minnesota Statutes sections 103G.245 and 103G.301, and local ordinances.
Carbon Pipelines MN and CURE (Clean Up the River Environment) are not affiliated with Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator Ventures LLC, or any other pipeline company.
Carbon Pipelines MN is a project of CURE, a 30-year-old rural grassroots non-profit organization based in Montevideo, MN. CURE organizes Minnesotans around democracy, clean energy, and rural development.