Developer Nixes $3.5B Carbon Capture Pipeline
OMAHA, Neb. — The developer of a proposed $3.5 billion carbon capture pipeline expected to run through four mid- and upper-midwestern states, summarily canceled the project on Friday, citing “the unpredictable nature of the regulatory and government processes involved.”
The so-called “Heartland Greenway,” a 1,300-mile liquid CO2 pipeline, was to have cut a path, underground, through South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa, culminating at a storage facility about a mile underground in Illinois.
Proponents of the proposal had hoped the pipeline would transport carbon dioxide from ethanol plants and other facilities and either sequester it underground or make it available for other commercial uses.
Opponents of the plan worried about the potential leaks that could pose a risk to residents and livestock living along the route, and also potentially irreparably damage farmland.
Though the developer, Navigator CO2 Ventures, said it had already spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” on early stage development of the project and land easement purchases, a series of recent regulatory setbacks evidently proved too much to bear.
In early September, regulators in South Dakota denied the venture a key construction permit, citing lack of responsiveness to state Public Utilities Commissions questions on the part of the venture, and other issues.
The proposal would have traversed about 122 miles in the state and served three ethanol plants there.
Later that month, the venture, which is backed by Valero Energy Corp., the Texas-based oil refiner, and BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset management company, asked to suspend its permit process in Iowa.
Then, just two weeks ago, the company withdrew its pipeline and sequestration permit requests in Illinois, effectively putting the project on hold.
At the time it said in a statement that it was “taking time to reassess the route and application.
“Navigator will withdraw its current application with the intent to reinitiate Illinois permitting, if appropriate, when Navigator’s full evaluation is complete,” the statement said.
In a statement posted on the company’s website on Friday, Navigator CEO Matt Vining said all things considered, the venture had made “the difficult decision to cancel the Heartland Greenway project.”
“We are disappointed that we will not be able to provide services to our customers and thank them for their continued support,” Vining said.
“I am proud that throughout this endeavor, our team maintained a collaborative, high integrity, and safety-first approach and we thank them for their tireless efforts,” he continued.
“We also thank all the individuals, trade associations, labor organizations, landowners and elected officials who supported us and carbon capture in the Midwest.”
The news of the proposal’s demise greatly pleased the plan’s opponents, including Jess Mazour, of the Sierra Club of Iowa, who called its cancellation “a historic victory.”
Their happiness may be short lived, however.
Two other companies, Summit Carbon Solutions and Wolf Carbon Solutions, are still seeking to build carbon capture pipelines in Iowa and other Midwestern states.
Summit is near the end of its permit process with the Iowa Utilities Board.
An evidentiary hearing is expected to resume in November and the company has said it hopes to have a decision on its Iowa permit by the end of the year.
Like Navigator, Summit was also denied a permit in South Dakota but plans to reapply.
North Dakota utility regulators have also denied the company a permit but have agreed to reconsider the application.
As for Wolf Carbon Solutions, it is looking to build a much smaller system, encompassing only a portion of eastern Iowa.
The Iowa Utilities Board has yet to set a schedule for what remains of its permit process.
Among those closely monitoring what happens next are the members of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
In a statement, the association’s executive director, Monte Shaw, said his members believe carbon capture and sequestration projects “are the best way to align ethanol production with the increasing demand for low-carbon fuels both at home and abroad.
“Carbon capture and sequestration is the essential key to unlocking the 100-billion-gallon sustainable aviation fuel market for agriculture, in the long term,” he continued.
“If realized, the sustainable aviation fuel market would trigger the largest rural economic boom since the introduction of corn hybrids,” Shaw said. “It is not an overstatement to say that decisions made over the next few months will likely place agriculture on one of two paths. One would lead to 1990s stagnation as corn production exceeds demand, and the other opens new market opportunities larger than anything we’ve ever seen before. IRFA will fight for a prosperous farming future.”
Shaw also took issue with opponents of the Navigator project and other proposals like it, accusing them of spreading misinformation “among the public and regulators in multiple states.”
“That does not happen by accident. Rather, it is being pushed by groups who oppose modern agriculture and whose stated mission is to destroy farming as we know it,” Shaw said, adding, “While we respect Navigator’s decision, the association will continue to support multiple other carbon capture and sequestration projects and we expect ultimate success.”