US ethanol industry needs carbon capture to feed aviation fuel market -agriculture secretary

Source: By Leah Douglas, Reuters • Posted: Thursday, November 30, 2023

Nov 29 (Reuters) – Carbon capture and storage (CCS) at ethanol plants in the U.S. Midwest is necessary if the industry and its farmers hope to have a role in the burgeoning sustainable aviation fuel market, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.

Three CCS pipelines that would transport and store captured carbon from ethanol plants in an effort to slash that industry’s emissions have been proposed in the Midwest, though they have faced stiff resistance from landowners along the routes who fear their land will be damaged or taken through eminent domain.

One of the pipelines, from Nebraska-based Navigator CO2 Ventures, was canceled in October and the other two, from Colorado-based Wolf Carbon Solutions and Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions, have faced significant roadblocks.

The ethanol industry is banking on CCS and carbon pipelines to slash their emissions, in part so the fuel can qualify as a feedstock for SAF, which the industry sees as a critical to ethanol’s growth. That effort that has been stalled by public resistance to the pipeline projects.

To receive lucrative tax credits, SAF producers must demonstrate their fuel reduces emissions 50% over gasoline.

Vilsack said in a conversation with Reuters reporters that using biofuels to make SAF would require the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

“For folks in the Midwest, if they’re interested in taking advantage of a biofuel renaissance and expansion with sustainable aviation fuel… they are going to have to have some way of dealing with the issue of carbon capture and storage,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack also told Reuters reporters on Wednesday that a much-anticipated decision from the U.S. Treasury that could make it easier for ethanol-derived SAF to qualify for subsidies would come by the end of the year.

Vilsack said he has not had any conversation with the White House about the carbon pipelines, in part because his son, Jess Vilsack, is general counsel for Summit Carbon Solutions.

“I’ve been trying to not complicate his life and make it more difficult,” Vilsack said.

Reporting by Leah Douglas; editing by Edward Tobin

Washington-based award-winning journalist covering agriculture and energy including competition, regulation, federal agencies, corporate consolidation, environment and climate, racial discrimination and labour, previously at the Food and Environment Reporting Network.