Summit Carbon Solutions updates Kandiyohi County Board on pipeline progress in Minnesota, Iowa, Dakotas

·4 min read


— While the proposed

Summit Carbon Solutions carbon dioxide pipeline

through areas of the state might be Minnesota's first such pipeline, it most likely won't be the only — or the last.

"We are the first one here. We are not going to be the last in Minnesota," said Joe Caruso, Minnesota external affairs coordinator for Summit, at the May 16 meeting of the

Kandiyohi County Board


Part of the more than 2,000-mile pipeline will go right through Kandiyohi County — from Bushmills Ethanol in Atwater diagonally across to the borders with Chippewa and Renville counties, where the pipeline will meet up with Granite Falls Energy before heading south.

With the state taking over all permitting for the pipeline, Kandiyohi County doesn't have much say in the project, but Summit Carbon has said it will be as transparent as possible with the impacted counties, hence the at least annual stops at county boards. The company also had plans to meet with the Chippewa, Renville and Yellow Medicine County boards this month.

"We are trying to be as transparent and courteous as we can be and be communicating with county boards on a regular basis, whether in person or in writing," Caruso said.

The project is planned to capture, transport and permanently store up to 18 million tons of carbon dioxide from 34 biofuel plants along the pipeline branches in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The company says the compressed CO2 will be permanently and safely stored in saline reservoirs deep underground in North Dakota.

The federal tax credits that will be part of the financing for this project do not allow for the reuse of the carbon dioxide — it must be permanently sequestered.

"The essence of the project is to really support the ethanol industry from both an environmental standpoint and a financial standpoint, and thereby enhance the long-term outlook for the agriculture economy in the five states we operate in," Caruso said.

The Kandiyohi County portion of the pipeline is part of the central branch in Minnesota. It is the longest branch of the three in the state being proposed by Summit, at about 175 miles, and would connect four ethanol plants.

The other two branches are the southern branch — from Fairmont, Minnesota, to Superior, Iowa — and the northern branch — from Fergus Falls, Minnesota, to the North Dakota border. So far, Summit has applied for a permit only for the northern branch.

The hope is to apply for the southern branch permit this quarter and for the central branch permit sometime this year. Caruso said it could take between 12 to 18 months for the permit to be approved or denied.

The pipeline's route through Kandiyohi County is still in flux. Summit Carbon cannot use eminent domain in Minnesota, so it's only with landowner approval that the pipeline can go across private property. This means the pipeline might have to take a more serpentine route through the counties, adding miles to the route.

There have been some landowners in Kandiyohi County who have signed on to the project, Caruso said.

"We have to essentially lock it down before we file with the Public Utilities Commission," with the route and then permitting, Caruso said.

The sole purpose of the pipeline is to help reduce the carbon footprint of the ethanol industry. California, Oregon and Washington already have low carbon fuel standards, and Minnesota is considered one of the states likely to put similar rules in place, along with Canada. Summit Carbon hopes to work with that trend.

"There is a big trend nationally and internationally to decarbonize industry, whether it is ag, power generation or refinery," Caruso said. "This is just one strategy to help with that."

Caruso said safety is a top priority for Summit Carbon. There are more than 5,000 miles of CO2 pipelines across the country, and while there have been major incidents, these pipelines overall have been relatively safe, Caruso said.

Not all the Kandiyohi County Commissioners are supportive of the project.

Commissioner Steve Gardner said he has real concerns about the safety of the pipeline and what it could do the county's environment if there is a breach. He also doesn't think this project will do much to help the environment either, as it will only take the equivalent of 3.9 million vehicles off the road when there are approximately 285 million driving in the United States.

"I would suggest that this might not necessarily be the environmental savior that it is being reported to be. It is an economic opportunity for certain companies to profit in this space," Gardner said. "My concerns revolve around certainly safety and sustainability. I am not on board, I am not a believer."

However, others on the board weren't so against the project's proposed benefits.

"We need to try and do something about it from an environmental point of view. There aren't a lot of options we have; I am very serious on looking at this option. I think it has some good possibilities." said Commissioner Corky Berg, though he too believed safety would be the main concern. "Maybe it is a big Band-Aid, but it is a Band-Aaid versus not doing anything."