Pioneering Carbon Capture Project at Colorado Ethanol Plants

Pioneering Carbon Capture Project at Colorado Ethanol Plants

A pioneering carbon capture company wants to lead the fight against climate change in northeast Colorado by collecting 350,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year from ethanol fermentation at Yuma and Sterling plants and injecting it into underground wells.

Carbon America on Thursday announced the project with Sterling Ethanol and Yuma Ethanol, reportedly the first such commercial operation to sequester significant amounts of carbon in Colorado. The state has ambitious carbon reduction targets to combat global warming in the coming decades, and some experts say carbon capture and sequestration is an essential additional tool, alongside reducing overall emissions. of industrial production.

Arvada-based Carbon America wants to complete the project and begin sequestration in northeast Colorado in 2024, after an extensive EPA permitting process. To fund construction, the company is bringing together investors who can take advantage of federal tax credits for carbon projects, including Wall Street giants. Most ethanol is added to gasoline to provide cleaner fuel for vehicles.

Carbon America plans to build a pipeline connecting ethanol production plants to injection wells, drilled thousands of feet into the same stable underground formations in the Denver-Julesburg Basin often explored for oil and gas. While the ultimate goal to stop climate change must be to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels, Carbon America CEO Brent Lewis said, carbon capture and storage is needed as a carbon reduction technology. bridges.

The most carbon-emitting utilities have planned cleaner generation projects, but do not plan to shut down coal and natural gas plants all at once.

“We can’t make that happen today,” Lewis said. ” That takes time. We believe we can act faster and act now to eliminate some of the CO2 emitted by factories that simply cannot be shut down yet, so that we still have a growing economy.

By comparison, the Rio Grande cement plant in Pueblo emitted 802,000 tons of carbon in 2020, according to the EPA. Many gas and coal-fired power plants exceeded 1 million tons each, and the emissions champion was Xcel’s Comanche complex in Pueblo at 4.5 million tons. Colorado’s 2005 benchmark for the state’s overall CO2 emissions was approximately 140 million tons per year. From there, the state requires the total to be reduced by 26% in 2025 and 50% in 2030.

Utilities and carbon emissions experts say Project Carbon America is a worthwhile first experiment that will yield useful results.

“Carbon capture and storage is something we’ll need to meet decarbonization goals by 2050,” said Pat O’Connell, a New Mexico engineer and energy analyst for the organization at nonprofit Western Resource Advocates, and advisor to the Colorado task force. on carbon sequestration. “There hasn’t been much success with these carbon capture projects at the power plant site. So I’m very interested to see how well the ethanol project is working.

Carbon America has discussed the project with the Colorado Energy Office, lawmakers and other state departments and may apply for grants or other assistance to continue the work, Lewis said. The Legislature just passed Senate Bill 193, which includes a $25 million grant fund to support carbon sequestration and other greenhouse gas cleanup efforts.

The EPA has created a new class of injection well permits to accommodate the growing interest in carbon sequestration. Rules include in-depth geological surveys to find stable storage sites, continuous monitoring to ensure CO2 remains captured, financial responsibility for the site after injection stops, and measurement of the amount of CO2 stored. as part of the continuous monitoring of greenhouse gases. There are no permitted projects so far in Colorado, according to the EPA’s website.

The project could help northeast Colorado produce some of the low-carbon ethanol available, according to a statement from Dave Kramer, president of Sterling Ethanol and Yuma Ethanol. The ethanol plants were started in 2005 by local corn growers, ranchers and investors. “Carbon capture and storage will enable us to continue to support our rural communities, their agricultural and cattle operations and their economic development, while significantly reducing our environmental impact,” he said.

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