Plants want to bury CO2 in Kansas to cut carbon footprints

Kansas has three carbon dioxide pipelines. Next, it could get two carbon sequestration wells, linked to ethanol plants. Here’s what we know.

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February 23, 2024 - 3:37 PM

Corn is the most common source of U.S. ethanol. Ethanol plants in central Kansas could build the state’s first CO2 sequestration wells to shrink their carbon footprints. Photo by PIXABAY

Kansas has three carbon dioxide pipelines. Next, it could get two carbon sequestration wells, linked to ethanol plants.

Two companies seek to build the first sites in Kansas where carbon dioxide emissions get pumped deep underground to keep them out of the atmosphere, a practice that proponents argue will combat climate change but that many environmental groups oppose.

The fledgling carbon sequestration industry is picking up pace globally, and geologists say rock formations beneath Kansas offer a bonanza of suitable locations for it.

“Kansas has abundant geology that would be compatible with long-term permanent CO2 storage,” said Brendan Bream, a senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey.

The Kansas Geological Survey envisions conducting a county-by-county study to identify suitable areas.

The two proposals for the state’s first carbon sequestration wells are linked to ethanol plants in central Kansas. They’ll need to pass muster with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The proposals come amid a national trend of corn ethanol makers racing to access federal tax incentives that could make or break an industry at risk of being sidelined by newer biofuels with smaller carbon footprints.

The wells would also mark a new chapter in Kansas’ foray into the world of carbon capture. So far, the state has three CO2 pipelines in southwest and southeast Kansas, and one well that repurposes the emissions from a Garden City ethanol plant into a tool for forcing hard-to-get fossil fuels out of the ground.

Here’s what we know about Kansas’ proposed and existing carbon dioxide infrastructure and a burgeoning new sector.

The two pending applications in Kansas are relatively small compared to massive multistate pipeline proposals that have grabbed headlines elsewhere in the Midwest. One of those seeks to carry CO2 from 51 ethanol plants in five states to sequestration wells in North Dakota.

PureField Ingredients, an ethanol and wheat protein maker in Russell, Kansas, submitted its application last spring to pipe emissions from the edge of town to a well that it would drill six miles away.

Its filings with the EPA describe the company as one of Russell’s largest employers in this rural area, which lies between Salina and Hays.

The company didn’t respond to requests for an interview.

It ships most of its ethanol to the West Coast and wants to capture 150,000 metric tons of carbon annually.

California, Oregon and Washington state have adopted rules pushing biofuel makers to shrink their carbon footprints. Last week, New Mexico followed suit.

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