Summit Carbon files for permit to build a carbon capture pipeline; two more are expected

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Summit Carbon Solutions has taken the next step in building a 680-mile pipeline across 29 counties in Iowa, filing with the Iowa Utilities Board for a permit.

The underground pipeline, carrying liquefied carbon dioxide from a dozen Iowa ethanol plants to a mile-deep sequestration site in North Dakota, would cross two dozen watersheds, nearly 90 waterways and 645 secondary roads.

Summit, an Ames company that spun off from entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group, is one of three firms that want to build carbon capture pipelines in Iowa to serve ethanol, fertilizer and other industrial agriculture plants.

Summit says it has agreements to capture carbon from 31 ethanol plants and one fertilizer plant in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.

The project is listed as a hazardous liquid pipeline because carbon dioxide in high concentrations can cause illness and asphyxiation. Summit says it is needed to cut ethanol’s carbon footprint in half so it can be sold in California and other states with low-carbon fuel standards.

The project also supports Iowa farmers, Summit says. Iowa is the largest U.S. producer of ethanol, which consumes about half of the state’s nation-leading corn crop.

“This project is a win for every farmer across the state of Iowa and will not only transform and bolster the ethanol and agriculture industries, but it is a critical piece in helping future generations of farmers enjoy strong corn prices and high land values for decades to come,” Jimmy Powell, Summit’s chief operating officer, said in a statement Monday.

More:ADM proposes an Iowa carbon-capture pipeline, bringing state’s total to three

While the projects have supporters, many farmers, landowners and county officials have filed objections with the utilities board, expressing concern about the possible use of eminent domain to force landowners to sell rights of way to the companies. Some also have expressed concern about potential degradation of farmland the tile system that drains fields of excess moisture.

Summit’s petition for a pipeline permit provides Iowa landowners and residents detailed maps, showing the route the company proposes to take. The documents also outline the local, state and federal highways and scenic byways the pipeline would need to cross, along with railroads, waterways and wetlands in its path.

Altogether, the company estimates its pipeline would traverse 8,777 acres, most of which would consists of farmland.

More:Gov. Kim Reynolds’ support for ‘carbon capture solutions’ doesn’t include incentives for pipelines

But Summit also seeks to cross several natural features, including 18 miles of waterways; land eyed for a possible expansion of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge; portions of Brushy Creek State Park in northwest Iowa; and Praeri Rail Trail, a 10.5-mile recreational corridor in Story County.

In addition to the Iowa Utilities Board permit, Summit expects it will need 19 other state and federal permits for the pipeline to cross Iowa.

Jess Mazour, the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter conservation coordinator, said Monday the project affects all Iowans, regardless of whether the pipeline would cross their land. “It impacts the natural resources we as taxpayers have invested in,” she said.

More:What we know about two carbon capture pipelines proposed in Iowa

The Tallgrass Prairie refuge, which encompasses the northwest corner of Iowa, was established in 2000 to preserve one of the remaining slivers of the grasslands that once covered Iowa and neighboring states and the wildlife they support, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

In Iowa and Minnesota, tallgrass prairies have shrunk from their original 25 million acres to 300,000, the agency says.

Brushy Creek is one of Iowa’s largest state parks, at 6,500 acres. It is a popular destination for horseback riders, with two equestrian campgrounds, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says.

More:CO2 pipeline official tells concerned Polk crowd that project likely won’t need permanent tax subsidies

In addition to Summit, Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures proposes building 900 miles of pipeline across 36 counties in Iowa. And Archer Daniel Midlands Co., working with Denver-based Wolf Carbon Solutions, propose a 350-mile pipeline connecting with ADM’s ethanol plants in Cedar Rapids and Clinton.

Both Navigator and ADM plan to sequester carbon in Decatur, Illinois, where ADM has an existing operation.

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