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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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