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Carbon capture creates new opportunities for ethanol, panelists say

Between a total of six interruptions by passionate protestors, panelists at the National Carbon Capture Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday morning discussed how carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) pipelines have the potential to create new opportunities for the U.S. ethanol industry. 

“Carbon sequestration represents a huge opportunity in scale for these plants to really drop their carbon intensity,” says Chris Bliley, vice president of regulatory affairs at Growth Energy. 

Summit Carbon Solutions says CCS can reduce an ethanol plant's carbon intensity score by 30 points and has the potential to help plants reach net-zero emissions by the end of the decade.

Panelists discussed how lowering carbon intensity opens up new opportunities for the ethanol industry, such being used for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel 

“The aviation industry is not going to be running off of solar panels or batteries,” says Nick Noppinger, senior vice president of corporate development for Wolf Carbon Solutions. “It has to find another way to decarbonize and the pathway.” 

Noppinger says ethanol needs CCS to lower its carbon intensity enough to be used in SAF production. 

“That's what the consumer is demanding,” he says. “That's also what maximizes the credits and incentives to make it economic and competitive with jet fuel.” 

A Sustainable Cycle

Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, vice president of government and public affairs at Navigator CO2, says the opportunities don't stop at the ethanol plant. By including fertilizer plants on the CCS pipeline, not only does the carbon intensity of the fertilizer go down, but so does the carbon intensity of the grain produced with the fertilizer and the ethanol produced with the grain. 

She also says in the future there is potential for carbon captured at ethanol plants to be used to produce plastics and other products made with petroleum today.

Talking About The Why

She wrapped up her comments on the panel emphasizing the importance of talking about “the why.” 

“You really do need to start with the why because as we’ve seen, this is an emotional issue,” she says referring to the many interruptions throughout the panel by protestors shouting and chanting opposition to CCS pipelines. Concerns about safety, eminent domain, and water and air quality were raised. 

So, what is the why? 

“We’ve fueled innovation for decades and this allows the Corn Belt to continue to fuel innovation into future,” Burns-Thompson says. 

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