Ethanol plant gets key EPA permit for carbon sequestration

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014

U.S. EPA issued a draft “Class VI” permit for the underground injection of carbon dioxide to the second-ever project this week, marking a milestone in regulations of capture and storage of the greenhouse gas.The draft permit under the Class VI program for the Archer Daniels Midland Co. project in Decatur, Ill. — which aims to capture 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 annually over five years from an ethanol plant — was long awaited by developers after a three-year waiting period. The agency’s action follows on the heels of an announcement this month that FutureGen 2.0, a proposed carbon capture project on a coal plant in Illinois, would receive the first-ever draft permits under Class VI, a rule finalized in 2010 governing underground injection of CO2 into rock for long-term storage.”The EPA’s review of ADM’s permit application indicates no significant environmental impact should result from the proposed injection,” EPA said in a fact sheet released yesterday.

While carbon capture and sequestration is typically associated with coal, many energy analysts consider the Archer Daniels Midland project on an ethanol facility pivotal for understanding how large amounts of CO2 will behave stored underground in the Mount Simon geologic formation, a rock formation stretching across three states (ClimateWire, Sept. 12, 2011). Most existing carbon capture and storage projects proposed at large scale in the United States involve enhanced oil recovery, and many analysts say that extensive storage of CO2 in rock formations outside of oil fields eventually will be necessary to keep global temperatures manageable.

As the second-ever project to receive a draft permit under Class VI, the ADM initiative is also a test case for an agency program critiqued by some as moving too slowly. At an event this year, for instance, Kipp Coddington, a partner at Kazmarek Mowrey Cloud Laseter, said Class VI rules are too “burdensome” for some carbon capture developers by making them liable for long-term underground storage of CO2, even if the injection period is short.

Archer Daniels Midland has already injected more than 750,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide underground at the site as part of a partnership with the Department of Energy and Illinois Geological Survey. The existing well is operating under a permit issued by the Illinois EPA.

The new Class VI well — if ultimately granted final approval by EPA — would facilitate a major project expansion, allowing for 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 annually to be injected over five years at the site. ADM also has proposed a post-injection monitoring period of CO2 for 10 years after operations and is awaiting an EPA Class VI permit on another well.

EPA announced it would be holding an open house, question-and-answer session and public hearing in Decatur on May 21. The agency also will begin accepting public comments on the ADM permit through May 30.