Iowa, Texas companies propose multi-billion dollar carbon-capture pipelines across Iowa

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2021

Companies in Iowa and Texas plan to build pipelines across the state that will capture carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol, fertilizer and other industrial plants before being permanently sequestered.

Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures said this week it needs to expand by 50% the capacity of its planned 1,200-mile pipeline, which it first announced plans to build in March.

The Dallas company plans to accept carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants and other ag manufacturers in Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois, where it will be sequestered.

Bruce Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group said earlier this year that it was creating Summit Carbon Solutions, which plans to accept carbon emissions from biofuel facilities across Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The Alden company in north-central Iowa plans to sequester the carbon in North Dakota.

Both companies want to capture the carbon dioxide emissions before they’re released into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming, compressing the emissions into a liquid so it can be transported and injected it into underground rock formations.

Navigator CEO Matt Vining said the project will cost “in excess of $2 billion.” Summit Carbon’s project is estimated to cost $4 billion, said Justin Kirchhoff, president of Summit Ag Investors.

Navigator CO2 plans to sequester 12 million metric tons per year; Summit Carbon anticipates needing capacity to sequester at least 10 million tons annually.

Vining said the carbon injected into rock formations thousands of feet underground calcifies, permanently storing the carbon. The projects must undergo extensive federal and state environmental review before they’re approved, he said, and require long-term monitoring after they end.

Kirchhoff said Summit is working with 10 Iowa ethanol companies as well as about 20 others across the Midwest. Vining declined to say exactly how many ethanol businesses the company is working with, but added that the number is growing, requiring the need to expand capacity.

Valero Energy Corp. is the anchor customer for Navigator, the company announced in March.

Both Kirchhoff and Vining said renewable fuel plants can use carbon sequestration to qualify to sell ethanol and other biofuels in states like California, which require low-carbon fuels. Kirchhoff said the Iowa project can cut carbon emissions from ethanol plants in half.

Although the exact path of Navigator’s pipeline is still being decided, Vining said the company is beginning talks with landowners about leasing land for the pipeline. Summit hasn’t outlined a possible path yet for its pipeline.

Rastetter, a Republican mover and shaker in Iowa, hired Terry Branstad, the former U.S. ambassador to China and a former Republican governor in Iowa, in March as a senior policy advisor.

Branstad has been a longtime “supporter of Iowa and Midwest agriculture and biofuels and he’s a huge supporter of this project,” said Kirchhoff, adding that Branstad will lead the company’s communication on the project, “whether it’s Midwestern farmland owners or regulatory agencies.”

While oil and gas pipelines have been controversial, with several environmental and indigenous groups opposing them, Venture’s Vining said he believes a climate-friendly pipeline will be better received. “Capturing CO2 from the environment is in the public’s best interest … it’s a public need,” he said.

At full capacity, Navigator says its carbon capture pipeline would have the environmental benefits equal to removing 2.6 million cars from the road annually or planting 550 million trees each year.

Carbon capture and storage projects have the ability to reduce global CO2 emissions by almost one-fifth, and lower the cost of addressing climate change by 70%, Navigator said, pointing to data from the International Energy Agency.

Vining said his company isn’t concerned about the Biden administration’s push toward electric vehicles. Renewable fuel advocates have worried that the initiative could cut demand for ethanol and biodiesel.

“Liquid fuels will play a role” in powering vehicles “in the foreseeable future,” he said. Navigator expects to begin phasing in operations in late 2024.

Summit Carbon Solutions expects to be operational in the first half of 2024.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at or 515-284-8457.