Navigator Cancels Carbon Pipeline Plans

In Blow to Ethanol Plants, Navigator Ends Attempt to Build a Five-State Carbon Pipeline

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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This map shows the proposed $3.5 billion Navigator CO2 Ventures pipeline, which the company has now put on hold following permit problems in South Dakota, Illinois and Iowa. (Map courtesy of Navigator)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Less than two weeks after putting a hold on its permit applications, Navigator CO2 Ventures announced Friday the company is canceling its $3.5 billion carbon pipeline project.

In a statement, Navigator CO2 pointed to the "unpredictable nature of the regulator and government processes involved, particularly in South Dakota and Iowa."

Matt Vining, CEO of Navigator, said, "As good stewards of capital and responsible managers of people, we have 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."

Navigator had planned to run a 1,350-mile route of pipelines to as many as 30 ethanol plants in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois -- with most of its contracted ethanol plants in Iowa. Those ethanol plants would ship their carbon dioxide waste through Navigator's pipeline and sink it in Illinois, which would dramatically lower the carbon footprint for those ethanol plants.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, reaffirmed the group's support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects "as the best way to align ethanol production with the increasing demand for low-carbon fuels both at home and abroad. Longer term, CCS is the essential key to unlocking the 100-billion-gallon sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) market for agriculture," Shaw stated to DTN.

"If realized, the SAF market would trigger the largest rural economic boom since the introduction of corn hybrids. 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 leading to the 1990s stagnation as corn production exceeds demand; the other opens up new market opportunities larger than anything we've ever seen before. IRFA will fight for a prosperous farming future."

Shaw also criticized some of the complaints that have essentially stalled CCS projects in multiple states.

"Over the last year, we have been disappointed with the amount of disinformation that has been spread among the public and the regulators across multiple states. That does not happen by accident," Shaw said. "Rather, it is being pushed by groups who oppose modern agriculture and whose stated mission is to destroy farming as we know it. So, while we respect Navigator's decision, IRFA will continue to support multiple other CCS projects, and we expect ultimate success."

IRFA released a study earlier this year that indicated Iowa ethanol plants could lose more than $10 billion a year if they do not have a way to sequester carbon and receive new federal tax credits as a result.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year, includes the Clean Fuels Production Credit, or 45Z, that could generate an average of 48 cents a gallon in tax credits for ethanol plants. Then there is the value of selling lower-carbon ethanol into markets such as California or other states with low-carbon fuel standards as well.

Navigator had lost a construction permit application in South Dakota in early September and had asked the Iowa Utilities Board to suspend work on its permit application in that state as well. The Illinois Commerce Commission also had been preparing to hold hearings on Navigator's permit application, which was crucial because Navigator had intended to sink its carbon dioxide into an Illinois bedrock formation.

Critics on Friday championed grassroots opposition to carbon pipelines, which included not only landowners who would not sign easements, but county officials in different states that passed

ordinances requiring more stringent setbacks and rules for the pipelines.

"It's very rare for people of so many different backgrounds and beliefs to stand together against something. We did and we won," said Kim Junker, a farmer in Butler County, Iowa, who helped rally opposition to the pipeline. "It was clear from the start that despite their billions of dollars, the power of everyday people would overcome these pipeline scams. But the fight isn't over; we need to remain vigilant and pass laws to make sure no other private corporation can threaten our land and our legacy again."

Jess Mazour, an Iowa organizer for the Sierra Club, said, "Unlike many other issues, this was never a case of right versus left -- it was right versus wrong. The people united to resist Navigator at every level in every corner of every state, and we won. We will continue our staunch opposition to carbon pipeline scams like Summit and Wolf. These projects are not for the public benefit; they never have been, and they never will be."

Another carbon pipeline project led by Summit Carbon Solutions is in the middle of its permit hearings in Iowa, which started in late August. The hearings are expected to stretch into November. Summit also has seen its permit applications rejected in both North Dakota and South Dakota but is reapplying for permits in both states. Summit's plan is to sink its carbon dioxide in North Dakota.

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Chris Clayton