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Friday, December 1, 2023
Dec. 1, 2023

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A tale of two CO2 pipelines: Navigator presses pause, Summit presses on


Two pipelines hoping to capture, transport and store a greenhouse gas produced by ethanol plants are facing vastly different futures following regulatory defeats.

Omaha-based Navigator C02 Ventures, an entity that had been hoping to construct a carbon dioxide pipeline across five Midwest states, said Tuesday it is withdrawing its application in Illinois and putting all its permit applications on hold.

The 1,300-mile pipeline would have connected to a number of Midwestern ethanol plants, carrying carbon dioxide emissions to a sequestration site deep underground in Illinois.

“As is consistent with our recent filing in neighboring jurisdictions, Navigator will be taking time to reassess the route and application,” Navigator said in a statement to the Star Tribune.

Last month, the company’s application for a permit was denied by South Dakota utilities board. While Navigator C02 had planned to run the pipeline into southern Minnesota’s Martin County, the company had not yet filed an application to build any pipeline with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

For Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions, however, plans for its CO2 pipeline remain the same.

The company, which wants to run a pipeline across the Upper Midwest, including in western Minnesota, has faced several setbacks.

In September, South Dakota regulators rejected Summit Carbon Solutions’ application for a pipeline permit, citing newly crafted county ordinances. A month earlier, regulators in North Dakota — where the company plans to store Co2 underground from dozens of ethanol facilities — also sent Summit back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile, a hearing in Iowa will resume in November.

“We respect this initial ruling and remain committed to South Dakota and deeply appreciative of the overwhelming support we have received from landowners and community members,” Lee Blank, Summit’s CEO, said in a statement last month.

The pipelines are largely supported by representatives of the ethanol industry, which has pointed to CO2 sequestration technology as an opportunity to lower the carbon footprint of ethanol, which is a fuel additive currently used in motor vehicles.

Leaders from commodity groups to farm country political leaders have extolled opportunities in new markets, such as sustainable aviation fuel.

But the campaign has faced pushback both from some farmers and landowners, who have decried potentially hazardous and privately-owned pipelines — funded primarily by federal tax credits — from intruding upon their backyards.

Many environmentalists have also expressed doubt about the purported climate benefits of carbon pipelines, which they say may compel farmers to convert more acres to cornfields.

In Minnesota, ethanol pipelines do not have access to eminent domain authority. In August, the PUC approved the scope of an environmental review of Summit’s 12-mile build, from the North Dakota border to an ethanol facility in Otter Tail County.

In an email, Sarah Mooradian, government and policy director with Montevideo-based CURE, which is a community group opposed to the pipelines, said the companies had once projected the systems would be operational by 2024.

“Without any permits approved [or even pending now],” Mooradian said, “that seems impossible to accomplish at this point.”

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