Poet’s ethanol plants shift to remaining carbon dioxide pipeline proposal

By: - January 29, 2024 4:56 pm
An ethanol plant near Aberdeen. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

An ethanol plant near Aberdeen. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

An ethanol production company headquartered in Sioux Falls announced Monday it will partner with the remaining company looking to build a carbon capture pipeline in South Dakota.

Poet will collaborate with Summit Carbon Solutions to implement carbon capture technology at 17 Poet ethanol plants, including five in South Dakota and 12 in Iowa. The South Dakota plants are located near Big Stone City, Chancellor, Groton, Hudson and Mitchell.

“As the world seeks low-carbon energy solutions, carbon capture ensures that ag-based biofuels will remain competitive for decades to come,” said Poet founder Jeff Broin in a news release.

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The decision comes after Poet’s former partner, Navigator CO2 Ventures, failed to obtain a permit in South Dakota and withdrew its pipeline project. That project aimed to transport liquefied carbon dioxide to a storage site in Illinois.

Sabrina Zenor, a spokesperson for Summit, said the addition of Poet became “an inevitability” after Navigator’s proposal ended.

“We are the only carbon capture and sequestration pipeline in this project footprint, and in order for these plants to remain viable, they need to have carbon capture and sequestration,” Zenor said.

A Poet spokesperson declined to say why the company initially elected to partner with Navigator rather than Summit. The companies’ agreements with ethanol producers differ. Navigator would have charged plants to transport carbon dioxide based on how much it was transporting, whereas Summit has preferred profit-sharing agreements.

The Summit pipeline was previously planned to capture carbon dioxide emissions produced by 34 ethanol plants in five states, and transport it for underground storage in North Dakota. The 17 Poet plants would increase the number to 51. Carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change, and federal tax credits are available for sequestering carbon. 

The Summit project has faced regulatory challenges and has suffered permit rejections in North Dakota and South Dakota. A permit decision is imminent in Iowa. The company has said it is working to refine its proposal to meet South Dakota requirements and plans to resubmit an application

Summit estimates about 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide will be captured from the 17 Poet plants. 

Zenor said the pipeline will not have to be bigger in diameter to handle the additional liquid CO2. She did not immediately reply to a question about how the addition of Poet plants will impact the project cost, which had been estimated at $5.5 billion.

Meanwhile, some landowners on the former Navigator route who were opposed to that project are not excited to hear they may now have to deal with Summit. 

“It’s certainly not a surprise,” said Jason VanDenTop, who farms near Canton. “I knew that was not going to be the end of the deal. They invested too much time and money.”

— Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter Jared Strong contributed to this report.




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Joshua Haiar
Joshua Haiar

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.