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Summit Carbon Solutions files for pipeline permit in Otter Tail, Wilkin counties

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions says its $4.5 billion pipeline project will help ethanol plants, including the Green Plains Ethanol plant at Fergus Falls, Minnesota, lower their carbon scores. The project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions and pipe the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.

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Summit Carbon Solutions, the company behind a plan to capture carbon emissions from ethanol plants in five states and pipe it to western North Dakota for storage, has filed for its first permits in Minnesota.

Summit has filed documents with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for pipeline permits in Otter Tail and Wilkin counties. That portion of the pipeline would connect the Green Plains Ethanol plant in Fergus Falls, one of six Minnesota ethanol plants that are part of the project.

Ethanol plant
The ethanol plant near Fergus Falls, Minnesota, is one of 32 plants on the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline route.
Agweek file photo

The pipeline would run west through Wilkin County, crossing into North Dakota south of Breckenridge, Minnesota. Application documents can be found on the PUC website ; the docket number is 22-422.

The 28.1 miles of pipeline would cost $50 million to build, according to permit documents filed on Sept. 12. The Iowa-based company says it expects to start construction in the second half of 2023 and construction is expected to take about 10 months.

Otter Tail Wikin pipeline route.png
The proposed route of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline through Otter Tail and Wilkin counties in Minnesota. The liquid carbon dioxide would flow west into North Dakota.
Summit Carbon Solutions

That portion of the pipeline would be 4 inches in diameter and would connect with another branch of the pipeline running south from the Tharaldson Ethanol plant at Casselton, North Dakota, the only North Dakota plant that is part of the project.

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Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions describes the pipeline as the world’s biggest carbon capture project, with a price tag of $4.5 billion. Summit says it would support corn growers by allowing 32 ethanol producers to get premium prices in markets with a low carbon fuel standard, such as California and Canada. Ethanol plants on the proposed route are in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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A group of farmers near Leola, South Dakota, and Aberdeen, South Dakota, say they are ethanol supporters but that the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline will cause them far more than what the company is paying for easements. They also say the lurking threat of eminent domain is inappropriate because the pipeline is not for a public utility. They think the long-term strategy of installing a pipeline to satisfy what may be of environmentally uncertain value is wrong, substituting their loss for likely a temporary gain for ethanol and pipeline investors.
"The easiest way to stop the carbon buildup is to quit burning fossil fuels, move to efficiency, green building and renewables. ... Instead of the common sense approach, there’s an even more crazy idea now, an awfully expensive set of experimental technologies .."
The decision means carbon pipeline companies must file for a siting permit with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Without statewide authority, permitting would have been left up to individual counties along the pipeline route.

Summit also would get a huge amount of revenue from federal tax credits — $85 per ton of greenhouse gasses stored. Summit says the project will have the capacity to capture and store up to 12 million tons of liquid carbon dioxide every year, pumping it underground northwest of Bismarck, North Dakota.

At $85 per ton, 12 million tons would mean more than $1 billion in federal tax credits alone. Summit says it would also get a share of the price of the ethanol sold into low-carbon markets.

The project has drawn objections from landowners who don’t want a hazardous materials pipeline on their property and fear that Summit will use eminent domain to obtain right-of-way.

Environmental groups, such as Minnesota-based CURE (Clean Up the River Environment) also have criticized the project and others like it.

“These companies are racing to put pipelines in the ground to take advantage of lucrative federal subsidies. But the ability of private corporations to make a profit is not a sound basis for deciding whether we need these large-scale, disruptive, and dangerous pipelines,” Maggie Schuppert, campaigns director for CURE said in a news release. “All Minnesotans — but especially those on the frontlines of these risky projects — need to be at the decision-making table.”

According to documents filed with the PUC, the pipeline will impact 319.2 acres of prime farmland in Otter Tail and Wilkin counties. Another 18 acres are classified as farmland of statewide importance.

It would cross the Pelican, Otter Tail and Bois de Sioux rivers, as well as other unnamed streams, before crossing into North Dakota.

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In an emailed statement, Summit said: “Over the past year, Summit Carbon Solutions has held dozens of public meetings in Minnesota and met with hundreds of stakeholders in the state to introduce our carbon capture, transportation, and storage project and highlight how this investment will open new economic opportunities for ethanol producers, farmers, and local communities. … We look forward to hearing feedback from the commissioners and staff at the PUC on this proposed route. More broadly, we look forward to continuing to advance this $550 million investment in Minnesota to support the long-term viability of ethanol and help the industry continue to purchase nearly half of all the corn grown in the United States.”

Summit MN route.png
The Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would connect six ethanol plants in Minnesota to a carbon storage site in North Dakota.
Summit Carbon Solutions

In addition to the branch in Otter Tail and Wilkin counties, another section of the Summit pipeline would run through Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Martin, Redwood, Renville and Yellow Medicine counties in Minnesota.

Fairmont ethanol plant
The Green Plains ethanol plant in Fairmont, Minnesota, shown on March 11, 2022, is one of 32 plants that has signed on to the Summit Carbon Solutions carbon capture pipeline project.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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