Some pros and cons of C02 pipelines

Friday, May 27, 2022

As another corn and soybean planting season wraps up, there’s an evolving issue that too many Midwest Corn Belt farmers probably don’t want on their minds. While attending the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) required landowner’s informational meetings last fall regarding the two proposed Midwest carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) pipelines, several pro and con arguments were articulated.

At Summit Carbon Solutions’ Sheldon landowner’s meeting back in October, Primghar area corn producer Kelly Nieuwenhuis spoke in support of Summit’s CCS pipeline project. He ts on the Board of Directors at Sioux County’s Siouxland Energy Cooperative (SEC) and its farmer members.

“I’m going to speak in favor of this Summit carbon capture pipeline. Everybody in this room has made a boatload of money from the biofuels industry in our lifetime. If it weren’t for biofuels industries, our land values wouldn’t be where they are today,” said Niewenhuis.

“As farmers, we are really good at what we do. Over the last 30 years, we’ve increased our yields by an average of 2 bushels per acre each year. At 60 bushels an acre on 90 million acres, that’s 5.4 billion bushels of corn and that’s what we grind in ethanol today. I’m not saying the ethanol industry is going away if this pipeline project doesn’t get built. But it will be enhanced.”

SEC was one of the first ethanol plants to sign up with Summit Carbon Solutions. “We’ve shipped 100% of our ethanol to California for 5 years and we’ve received a premium because they gave $200 a ton for carbon capture. We do have a low carbon intensity (CI) score already. This pipeline project will cut our CI score in half. So, yes, it’s going to make money for the biofuels industry. It’s going to make money for Iowa farmers.”

At the Navigator Ventures Sheldon landowners meeting in December, O’Brien County Supervisor Dennis Vanden Hull offered his assessment of the two proposed pipeline projects, particularly their entirely different routing strategies.

Pointing to a map showing Summit’s O’Brien County route, Vanden Hull said, “This shows their pipeline crossing in straight lines east to west and north to south. Their pipeline also lies along the half-section lines where you don’t disrupt anybody’s pattern tiling.”

When pointing to a Navigator project map showing how their pipeline is angled from southeast to northwest and southwest to northeast throughout O’Brien County, Vanden Hull continued, “This one just seems like it’s a lot more disruptive. And also, it gets too close to Hartley, within one mile. The pressure inside the pipe is pretty high. If you have a rupture or a leak, this could be a problem.

“O’Brien County has the second highest priced land values in Iowa. So, Navigator’s map looks like a big carbon target bullseye to me. We value everything that we have like our tile, our waterways and our infrastructure. Plus, we have 900 miles of buried high voltage transmission cables with this being Iowa’s largest wind energy producing county. There’s also 700 miles of underground rural water lines with just one rural water company. We do like Valero being here and they are a great property tax payer to O’Brien County.”

Sanborn property owner Richard Vander Werff expressed his concerns and asked several questions related to the danger CO2 posed to humans and the close proximity to Hartley of the Navigator pipeline routes. Because the discussion centered on liability, land and the environment, Vander Werff asked, “What studies have been done regarding a potential pipeline break? How are people impacted within a certain radius or distance of the actual break or explosion?”

Navigator replied they think these safety precautions will act to reduce the impact of any sudden rupture and the risk to residents.

Vander Werff continued, “Also, I heard you say Navigator keeps the pipeline away from populated areas, but we consider Hartley a populated area. That’s where several pipelines intersect within a mile or even a half-mile of that populated area. I’d think there should be a way for you to build a pipe further out away from the Valero ethanol plant instead of having these pipelines crisscrossing right near Hartley where potentially 1,500 lives are impacted by a pipeline break.”

Sometimes you have to build the pipeline close to where the actual facility like Valero is located even near a populated area. The safety factors designed will help mitigate that, the Navigator representative explained.

A large group of O'Brien County and western Clay County landowners met with the O'Brien County Board of Supervisors at the Board's November 2021 meeting to voice their concerns regarding the pipeline projects. 

Clay County landowner Randy Roghair reported his concerns primarily because he farms in a large century old Clay County drainage district built with clay and cement tile.  Roghair also farms land in O'Brien County.

 “My concern is about how these pipelines will affect our drainage district.  If you are in one, said Roghair, "then you, as a landowner, might be affected by the pipeline. But every landowner in a drainage district is affected because everyone owns a percentage of all that tile no matter where it is.  

“In Kossuth County, they put together this information packet that’s a guideline for anyone planning to build a power line or a pipeline through a drainage district,” said Roghair, who also pointed out a Kossuth County stipulation that says a licensed drainage engineer must be present whenever construction is taking place. The workers cannot do any construction, if that engineer is not present.

After listening to many valid concerns expressed, some about the likelihood of eminent domain being granted to one or both pipeline projects, Vander Werff insisted, "Even if eminent domain were granted by the Iowa Utilities Board to these two projects, I'm just looking at how we can potentially stop all of this."

•Navigator Status Update

At Navigator landowner’s meetings last fall and into January, they reported that their intent was to file their formal Hazardous Liquids Pipeline (HLP) Permit application with the IUB in May of 2022. On May 16th, I emailed several questions to Navigator President David Giles and their PR representative Craig Schoenfeld and asked if that was still their intent.

Via email later that morning, Schoenfeld replied, “Navigator will be making its application for an HLP permit later this summer.  A specific date has not been set.”

I also asked if Navigator still intended to schedule in-person meetings with the County Board’s of Supervisors across the state that are impacted by their proposed 1,300-mile, $3 billion CCS pipeline.

Schoenfeld replied, “I am currently working through the summer schedule that would bring Navigator subject matter experts to Iowa; O'Brien County is a county I have specifically targeted for in-person briefings to the board of supervisors.”


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