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Drive for carbon pipeline easements underway in west central Minnesota

Summit Carbon Solutions, joined by Granite Falls Energy, hosted meetings with landowners to negotiate easements for a proposed pipeline to carry carbon dioxide from the ethanol plant to North Dakota. The plant is among 31 ethanol plants in five states that are part of the proposed $4.5 billion project.

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Chris Hill, director of environment and permitting for Summit Carbon Solutions, second from right, visits with attendees at the company's meeting for landowners in Sacred Heart, Minnesota, on April 7, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune
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SACRED HEART, Minn. — Proponents of a $4.5 billion pipeline project to carry carbon dioxide away from ethanol plants in Minnesota and other Midwestern states say it is necessary in order for those plants to remain competitive in a low-carbon future.

That’s the message that landowners along the path proposed for a pipeline to the Granite Falls Energy plant heard as Summit Carbon Solutions began hosting a third round of meetings.

“We can’t compete without it,” Jeffrey Oestmann, CEO for the Granite Falls Energy and Heron Lake Energy plants, told those attending the meeting in Sacred Heart on Thursday. Summit Carbon Solutions hosted a meeting for invited landowners in Granite Falls that evening as well.

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Chris Hill, director of environment and permitting for Summit Carbon Solutions, second from right, visits with attendees at the company's meeting for landowners in Sacred Heart on April 7, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Oestmann said a majority of the ethanol plants in the Midwest have joined with Summit Carbon Solutions or another competing company. Both have goals of developing pipelines to carry carbon dioxide to North Dakota for permanent, underground sequestration.

“Carbon intensity is what we’re talking about here,” Oestmann said, further explaining that a number of states are following California’s lead in providing incentives and penalties for fuels based on their carbon impact.

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The proposed 2,000-mile pipeline will make it possible for participating ethanol plants in five states to reduce their carbon scores and enter the low-carbon markets. Absent the pipeline, the company would be at a 40- to 50-cent disadvantage per gallon in selling fuels in markets with low-carbon regulations, he said.

The ethanol industry is seeing tight profit margins with today’s corn prices. Ethanol plants that are not part of the pipeline would not be able to compete against those with the carbon reductions, Oestmann told the audience in Sacred Heart.

He also told the landowners that the success of the state’s ethanol plants is important to corn growers. The plants provide local demand and markets for their corn.
Summit Carbon Solutions, based in Ames, Iowa, began hosting meetings last fall with landowners along the pipeline’s proposed path. This latest round of meetings is aimed at negotiating easements with the landowners, according to Chris Hill, director of environment and permitting for the company.

Hill was joined by land agents representing Summit Carbon Solutions and representatives of the Granite Falls Energy board of directors at the meetings in Sacred Heart and Granite Falls with invited landowners. Most of the meeting was allocated for one-on-one meetings between the invited landowners and the agents.

No one voiced opposition to the project at the Sacred Heart meeting, but there are landowners who have concerns.

Clean Up the River Environment , headquartered in Montevideo, has offered virtual meetings with landowners. Maggie Schuppert, campaign director with CURE, said the organization has concerns about public health and safety, the impact on land and potential water impacts, and whether the pipelines represent a real climate solution.

She said CURE would like to see a more open and transparent process.

“We’d like to see that happen through a broader regulatory process because that is where issues can be raised and information can be gathered that will be shared with the public; where the public can actually have an opportunity to engage in the decision-making process.”

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Summit Carbon Solutions hopes to begin construction on the pipeline a year from now, according to Hill. He told the audience in Sacred Heart that his company’s project represents a $4.5 billion investment to connect 31 ethanol plants in five states. Of that total, $500 million is estimated for the Minnesota plants.

Summit Carbon Solutions must negotiate easements with thousands of individual landowners along the route of the pipeline in Minnesota. The company does not have eminent domain authority, he told the West Central Tribune.

He told landowners in Sacred Heart that the company will use a six-inch diameter pipeline to connect to the Granite Falls Energy plant. It would be trenched a minimum of 52 inches deep.

The company is seeking a permanent, 50-foot-wide easement along its path and an additional 50-foot-wide, temporary easement during construction. Landowners are being offered a starting price of 1.5 times the county’s average land value for the permanent easement, along with crop damages of 100% the first year, 80% the second, and 60% the third. The compensation would be provided upfront in a single payment.

In this area, Summit Carbon Solutions is planning to construct 8.81 miles of pipeline in Renville County and 13.97 miles in Yellow Medicine County to connect the Granite Falls Energy plant to the main pipeline. It plans a total of 152.91 miles of pipeline in Minnesota.

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The proposed route of the Summit Carbon Solutions carbon dioxide pipeline, shown in blue, is 8.81 miles in Renville County.
Contributed / Summit Carbon Solutions
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The proposed route of the Summit Carbon Solutions carbon dioxide pipeline, shown in blue, is nearly 14 miles in Yellow Medicine County.
Contributed / Summit Carbon Solutions

The entire pipeline network will carry 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Hill emphasized to landowners that any delays the project may face would represent 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide not being sequestered per month.

Summit Carbon Solutions will install equipment at each ethanol plant to compress and de-water the carbon dioxide for transport under pressure in the pipeline.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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