SCALE Act could help ethanol plants transport CO2 to customers

By Erin Voegele | December 17, 2020

Reps. Marc Veasey, D-Texas; David McKinley, R-W.V.; Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; and Pete Stauber, R-Minn., on Dec. 16 introduced the Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act, which supports the buildout of the infrastructure necessary to transport CO2 from where it is captured to where it can be utilized in manufacturing or safely and securely sequestered underground.

The bill would establish a carbon-to-value research, development and demonstration center to support RD&D of advanced fuels, chemicals, and materials produced form carbon oxide emissions. It would also authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to provide grants to states and municipalities for procuring carbon utilization products for infrastructure projects.

In addition, the bill would build upon the existing DOE CarbonSAFE program to provide cost share for deployment of commercial-scale saline geologic storage projects. It would give priority to geologic storage projects with larger storage capabilities and those that will serve as hubs storing CO2 from multiple carbon capture facilities.

Under the bill, the U.S. EPA would receive increased funding to help the agency thoroughly review permit applications in a timely manner for Class VI carbon dioxide storage wells and provide grants for states to establish and operate their own Class VI permitting programs. These increased resources would ensure rigorous and efficient CO2 storage site permitting.

Growth Energy noted the infrastructure development supported by the SCALE Act would help ethanol plants transport the carbon dioxide they produce to customers who need it to produce food, beverages and dry ice.

“As we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, CO2 captured from ethanol plants has critically important commercial, agriculture, and municipal water uses,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “Whether it’s CO2 used to produce dry ice for vaccine storage or used to treat municipal water, CO2 captured from ethanol plants is a critical component to many key supply chains and we cannot afford another shortage threat. We support the SCALE Act and encourage greater CO2 reduction across the board.” 

According to Growth Energy, approximately 50 of the 210 ethanol plants located in the U.S. capture a portion of the CO2 created during the fermentation process. Currently, these sources of demand must be local for CO2 capture to remain economically feasible. Expanded pipeline infrastructure supported by the SCALE Act, however, could help expand the opportunity for high-purity CO2 produced during ethanol fermentation to be more widely utilized.

The Carbon Capture Coalition has also endorsed the bill. “The Carbon Capture Coalition commends Representatives Veasey, McKinley, Bustos, and Stauber for their recognition of the essential importance of developing interconnected CO2 transport and storage infrastructure to help the U.S. reach net-zero emissions and meet midcentury climate goals,” said Brad Crabtree, director of the coalition. “This bipartisan legislation would foster regional and national buildout of cost-effective, shared CO2 transport networks, together with saline geologic storage hubs, enabling the scale-up of carbon capture and removal from our nation’s industrial facilities, power plants and future large-scale direct air capture facilities.”