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Summit Carbon partners with POET ahead of next PUC application

Brent Duerre

Summit Carbon Solutions is gearing up for its next application hearing with the Public Utilities Commission. This time, Summit is bringing biofuel producer POET into the mix.

However, pipeline opponents are expressing doubt over the newly announced partnership.

Summit is currently the only carbon capture and sequestration pipeline project seeking to build in South Dakota.

Summit’s original application with the PUC was denied. The company plans to reapply. This time, with a local partner.

Jon Probst is the Managing Director for Summit Agriculture Investors. He said the partnership will create a larger market for the ethanol industry.

“Capturing and sequestering carbon, like we are going to do together, really opens up a whole new world of opportunity for our ethanol producers. And coming from Iowa, South Dakota is very similar — obviously agriculture is a huge and important industry to the state. And plus-or-minus half of all corn that’s grown in Iowa and South Dakota ends up at an ethanol plant,” said Probst.

Summit officials previously vowed to work on healing landowner relations. This stems from Summit’s original approach of bringing litigation against landowners for the right to survey and build on private property.

Brian Jorde represents hundreds of South Dakota landowners who were originally sued by Summit. In a written statement to SDPB, he said South Dakota is continuously being attacked by big businesses who seek local control.

Jorde said centralization of power in Pierre is evident. He said the longer the people of the state continue to “stay asleep” the longer they will be fooled.

However, Probst said the process has slowed to leave room for understanding.

“We find that the more conversations we can have, the more that we can educate and talk to people about the benefits, the better off we are and the better off they are coming away more educated," said Probst. "That doesn’t mean that everyone is always going to agree with us, but we find when people are willing to sit down and have a conversation, more often than not we have a lot more alignment than we do disagreement.” 

Jeff Lautt is the President and COO of POET. He said his company is simply interested in lowering their carbon score by capturing what is lost in their production process.

“The corn fields are like a sponge. They soak up CO2 in the air, and instead of us ringing it out and releasing it back, we’re going to capture it, and give it to Summit into their system and they will pipe it up to North Dakota and put it geologically underground into a reservoir,” said Lautt.

The partnership includes 17 POET plant connections to Summit’s pipeline. Five are in South Dakota, including ethanol plants near Big Stone City, Chancellor, Groton, Hudson and Mitchell.

POET initially partnered with a different company planning to build a carbon pipeline — Navigator CO2 — but that company dropped its plans after the state PUC denied its application.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.