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Business & Economics

Explained: Two new carbon capture pipelines planned for S.D.

There are two carbon-capture pipelines planned for South Dakota.

Corn growers and ethanol companies say the projects are good for the economic future of farmers, and good for the environment. But opponents doubt those environmental claims.

Ethanol producers can get more money for their product in states with stricter emission standards by shrinking their carbon footprint.

One way to offset carbon dioxide emitted during ethanol production is to liquefy the carbon and bury it underground. That’s a process known as sequestration. Sequestering carbon keeps it out of the atmosphere, where it traps heat.

To sequester carbon, ethanol companies need pipelines to carry liquified C02 to a sequestration site.

The two pipelines would transport CO2 to Illinois and North Dakota, respectively. Those states have areas with the geological conditions needed for underground sequestration.

Some CO2 emissions are already made into dry ice and other products. But those efforts don't produce meaningful environmental results.

Chris Hill works for Summit Carbon Solutions, which is proposing the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline.

“Ultimately, you’re just delaying the release of that CO2 into the atmosphere from dry ice, or a soda, or in another food or beverage. When you inject it into a geological formation for permanent sequestration, it’s not going to get released back into the atmosphere,” he says.

Ethanol producers would also benefit from a federal tax credit awarding $50 per ton of sequestered CO2. Navigator CO2 Ventures expects its Heartland Greenway pipeline to transport 15 million tons annually.

Proponents say carbon pipelines are necessary to control the greenhouse gases driving climate change. However, some environmental groups are skeptical of carbon capture, arguing it does nothing to address the root causes of pollution.

Some landowners worry that spills from the pipeline could damage soil and water sources, a worry Navigator says it’s addressed.

“The product in this pipeline is carbon dioxide, it’s not a petroleum product. It does not contaminate your water or soil in that capacity. It is a short-term, localized impact," says Monica Howard, senior director of environmental regulatory with Navigator.

The company proposing the Heartland Greenway pipeline wants to be operational by 2025. Meanwhile, Summit Carbon Solutions recently received an extension for its permit application.