Plans for three carbon-capture pipelines advancing in Iowa

Feb. 7, 2022
Two companies have proposed building carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) pipeline systems targeting CO2 emissions from 51 Midwest ethanol and fertilizer plants in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Loren G. Flaugh
Primghar, Iowa

Two companies have proposed building carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) pipeline systems targeting CO2 emissions from 51 Midwest ethanol and fertilizer plants in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. A third is planning a smaller system to move carbon dioxide it generates to its own sequestration site.

Headquartered in Dallas, Tex., Navigator CO2 Ventures LLC plans to build a 1,300-mile pipeline network with a 24-in. OD trunkline and seven smaller-diameter laterals that will collect CO2 from 20 ethanol plants.  Called the Heartland Greenway Express, the transported CO2 will be sent to storage near the Mt. Simon Sandstone in Illinois. The pipeline’s cost is expected to approach $3 billion.

Though precise pipeline locations remain unknown, route maps indicate 885 miles are now proposed to be buried to a minimum 5-ft depth across Iowa alone. About 4,709 parcels of Iowa farmland are listed as being within the CCS pipeline’s corridor, requiring that many voluntary landowner easements be negotiated and obtained.

With 12 Midwest ethanol production plants themselves, Valero Energy Corp. is one major supporter of the pipeline. Investment firm BlackRock Inc., which is financing the project, is another. In his 2021 letter to chief executive officers, BlackRock Chairman Larry Fink said, “The world is moving to net zero, and BlackRock believes that our clients are best served by being at the forefront of that transition. We are carbon neutral today in our own operations and are committed to supporting the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.” Fink’s letter also pointed out that in 2020, the EU, China, Japan, and South Korea all made historic commitments to achieve net zero emissions.

Navigator’s pipeline specs include maintaining a normal operating pressure of 1,300-2,100 psig, with a maximum limit of 2,200 psig. Normal operating temperature is to be 40-80° F. Navigator intends to maintain a minimum separation distance of 18-24 in. between its pipeline and other existing underground utilities.

Pipeline diameters are anticipated to vary between 6 and 12 in. for the smaller gathering lines, and 18-24 in. for the larger mainline. WT will vary with pipe circumference. Trunkline pipe will have a WT of just more than 0.5-in. The smaller CO2 pipe will maintain a wall thickness of just less than 0.5-in.

Mainline block and control valves are to be strategically located along the system. Yet to be determined are the 10-acre sites for three or four mainline booster stations.

Navigator’s published information shows a lengthy timeline, with preliminary field surveying and installation methodology development being finished by third-quarter 2022. By the end of 2023, Navigator anticipates having obtained all required federal, state, and local permits. Construction is slated to begin early in 2024 and finish by end-2024. Commissioning is scheduled to be complete end-June 2025.

North Dakota bound

Headquartered in Ames, Iowa, Summit Carbon Solutions LLC plans to build 2,000 miles of pipeline at an estimated cost of $4.5 billion.  Known as the Midwest Carbon Express, Summit’s CCS pipeline will consist of a 24-in. OD mainline and numerous smaller diameter laterals that capture CO2 mainly from 31 ethanol plants. The CO2 will be shipped in liquid form to Oliver and Mercer Counties, ND, for sequestration. Summit’s pipeline will cross 706.42 miles in Iowa, according to its latest maps.

One major investor in Summit’s CCS project is leading farm equipment manufacturer Deere & Co. “Agriculture can play a key role in reducing carbon emissions, and in doing so will benefit farmers, consumers, and many other stakeholders,” said Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division. Growth Energy is the leading biofuels trade association in the US and another major supporter of Summit’s CCS pipeline.

Summit’s specs indicate that 4- to 24-in. OD pipe will be used for the pipeline. WT will be 0.189-0.750 in. Starting in north central Iowa with 4-in. OD pipe and heading west, pipe diameters increase as more CO2 enters the system. Exiting northwest Iowa in Lyon County with 20-in. OD pipe, diameter increases to 24-in. OD as the pipeline passes through South Dakota to the North Dakota sequestration site.

A minimum cover depth of 4 ft is to be maintained unless pipeline construction encounters farmland drain tile or other existing utility infrastructure, then it will go as deep as necessary to achieve safe clearance. When the CO2 is discharged from the ethanol plant, pressure will be maintained at more than 1,300 psig to keep it liquid. Pressures of as much as 2,100 psig are anticipated along the pipeline route. Plans call for building six booster stations, with two in Iowa at sites to be determined. The pipeline will be operated from a control center in Ames.

Summit intends to file its Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) hazardous liquids pipeline permit application in first-quarter 2022 while continuing to negotiate and acquire voluntary easements from landowners. The company anticipates an IUB decision in first-quarter 2023. Pipeline construction would run into second-quarter 2024, followed by project commissioning and start up. Minnesota Ltd. LLC has been selected as the primary pipeline construction contractor.

IUB-required landowner informational meetings for the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline wrapped up several weeks ago. Informational meetings for the proposed Heartland Greenway Express pipeline are still in progress. Final state and federal approvals aren’t expected before early 2023 at the soonest.

New entrant

In mid-January 2022 Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM) and Wolf Carbon Solutions US LLC announced plans to build a 350-mile pipeline—developed, owned, and operated by Wolf—to capture and transport 12 million tonnes/year of carbon dioxide produced at ADM’s Clinton and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ethanol and cogeneration plants. CO2 will be transported to ADM’s already-operational sequestration site in Decatur, Ill. The pipeline would have sufficient spare capacity to serve third-party customers.

ADM has so far stored more than 3.5 million tonnes at Decatur.

The author

Loren Gaylord Flaugh ([email protected]) is a freelance writer based in Primghar, Iowa. Previous work includes more than 12 years with Dresser Engineering, many of them spent as a power and control technician on pipelines and other petroleum sites in numerous states. Flaugh graduated (1966) from Paullina Community School in Paullina, Iowa, before enlisting in the US Navy Reserve Seabees and serving in Vietnam.