Large-scale CCS project will sequester CO2 from ethanol plants

By Erin Voegele | February 18, 2021

Summit Agricultural Group and Green Plains Inc. on Feb. 18 announced the launch of a large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in the Midwest that will lower the carbon footprint of biorefineries and other carbon dioxide emissions sources.

As part of that effort, Summit Agricultural Group has launched Summit Carbon Solutions, a new business platform that will develop the CCS project. When fully developed, Summit Carbon Solutions said it will have an infrastructure network capable of capturing and permanently storing more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road per year.

In addition to environmental impacts, the CCS project will help enhance the economic sustainability of the biofuels and agricultural industries while benefiting communities in the Midwest through significant private investment and job creation.

Summit Carbon Solutions said it has partnered with a select group of biorefineries in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota to execute the first phase of the project. Green Plains has announced that three of its biorefineries are in that group, including its facilities in Fairmont, Minnesota; Fergus Falls, Minnesota; and Superior, Iowa. Green Plains also noted it will have the option to expand to additional locations as the pipeline network grows. Summit Carbon Solutions also plans to partner with other industries throughout the Midwest.

Carbon captured through the project will be sequestered via geologic storage in North Dakota. Summit carbon Solutions said it is proceeding with initial engineering, design and permitting associated with the project. Green Plains is making an initial investment in Summit Carbon Solutions to help fund the development of the project and expects the pipeline to begin operation in late 2024.

“This is a giant leap forward for the biofuels industry,” said Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit Agricultural Group. “Carbon capture and storage is a future-focused solution that allows the biorefiners to lower their already attractive carbon footprint by up to 50 percent.”

“Simply put, this will be the most impactful development for the biofuels industry and Midwestern agriculture in decades,” Rastetter added. “We are grateful for our partnership with a significant group of forward-thinking biorefiners who have agreed to partner with us on this exciting new venture.”

“The partnership with Summit Carbon Solutions aligns with our ongoing transformation to lead the way in sustainable biorefining,” said Todd Becker, president and CEO of Green Plains. “The future is low carbon, and while we have already made enormous strides in improving the efficiencies and sustainability of our processes through Project 24 and Fluid Quip’s extensive IP suite, taking advantage of the advancements in carbon sequestration is the next logical step of our evolution.”

“By capturing and sequestering the carbon dioxide from our biorefineries, we are able to reduce our CI score by as much as 50 percent, comparable or lower than other low carbon fuels available in the market today, and position our renewable fuels for low carbon markets globally,” added Becker. “Based on current LCFS markets, we believe we can achieve a minimum of 15 cents per gallon margin uplift as well as potential for carbon credits, 45Q tax incentives and direct returns on our investment in the pipeline and SCS.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol has spoken out in support of the new CCS venture, stressing it puts ethanol on the path to net-zero emissions. “ACE welcomes the announcement of this ambitious and important project which recognizes the incredible potential ethanol holds to help achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by capturing the CO2 from corn ethanol fermentation and transporting it via pipeline to a final carbon sequestration site,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “ Given improvements occurring in corn farming and within ethanol facilities, corn ethanol’s carbon intensity (CI) continues to drop, and this project would harness the added benefit of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) which puts ethanol on a path to attain net-zero emissions.

“ACE looks forward to supporting our members who participate in this endeavor to increase the value of their ethanol by improving their carbon footprint, supporting their rural communities, and helping the nation reach net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury.”