DIGGING DEEPER: A Co2 pipeline might come to Central Illinois -- what does that mean?

Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 8:24 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - As state and federal agencies look to lower carbon emissions within the coming decades, Wolf Carbon Solutions says capture and pipeline technology is a necessary tool to make that happen.

The Colorado-based, Canada-owned company’s proposal is awaiting approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission. That process can take a long time, the commission has until May 31, 2024, to release a final decision. In the meantime, the docket for that case has a long schedule of deadlines and hearings.

If approved, the company wants to start construction quickly and have the pipeline up and running by the end of 2025.

Peoria City Councilmember Denise Jackson will hold a town hall with WCS and BioUrja, a local ethanol plant that has not committed to any agreement with the pipeline. The town hall will be from 6 to 8 p.m., July 26 at the Carver Center. While it’s put on by Jackson, she said anyone with concerns about the pipeline is welcome to attend.

Additionally, the Sierra Club of Illinois will host victims of the Satartia, Mississippi, pipeline rupture on August 26 at the Southside Community Center. A time has not been set yet.

Where is the pipeline supposed to go?

The proposed pipeline path starts with two ethanol plants in Iowa. They will feed their Co2 into the pipeline where it’s converted into a liquid state through intense pressure and heat.

From there it travels 259.9 miles in a 20-inch diameter pipe to Mt. Simon in Decatur. There will be 50 above-ground facilities to maintain and monitor the pipeline.

Illinois will house 165.7 miles of the pipeline and 33 above-ground facilities.

The proposed path for the Mt. Simon Hub Pipeline from Wolf Carbon Solutions
The proposed path for the Mt. Simon Hub Pipeline from Wolf Carbon Solutions(WEEK)

WCS is contacting landowners within a certain radius of the pipeline. A publicly available document shows hundreds, if not thousands, of addresses that fall into that corridor, some in familiar towns like Mapleton, Hanna City, Elmwood, Pekin, and more. Some of the addresses are for East Peoria and Peoria.

Wolf Carbon Solution’s application shows the pipeline will be installed through a variety of methods because that path takes it across rivers and other land formations. The pipeline could be five to 20 feet underground, depending on the location.

An initial route for the pipeline traveled directly through the Southside of Peoria. While the pathway has since been adjusted, concerns remain for Southside residents.

“It involved a combination of commercial reasons, land reasons as well as crossing the Illinois River and making sure that we cross at a point that is acceptable with the Army Corp of Engineers,” WCS’ Senior VP of Corporate Development Nick Noppinger said.

Daurice Coaster is the president of Nourish, a non-profit comprised of Southside residents. She is also a member of the Illinois Sierra Club.

For her, the pipeline burst in Satartia, Mississippi, is a cautionary tale from 2020, which left dozens of residents hospitalized.

“When you take Carbon dioxide from a gas to a liquid, it makes it highly, highly volatile,” Coaster said. “People who were approximately half a mile away from the explosion site had about 8 seconds before they lost consciousness.”

She’s spoken with some of those victims. While no one died, one man told Coaster he and others had to be revived because they had no oxygen.

Co2 is heavier than oxygen, meaning it can descend on an area and stay there if there’s no wind to take it away.

First district Peoria City Councilwoman Denise Jackson is concerned about contingency plans in the face of failure.

“I’m not sure that we’ve got it figured out correctly,” Jackson said. “If something were to happen we’ve got neighboring communities: East Peoria, Creve Coeur, Downtown Peoria. This could affect the entire region.”

“People have lots of questions in terms of safety, contingencies, and once again the air quality and the environment,” Jackson continued.

WCS could not comment on another company’s pipeline. The Delta Pipeline that burst in Satartia, Miss., is owned by Denbury, a Texas-based company.

However, Noppinger said they stand by their safety record and plan to communicate with local first responders on what to do in the event of a break.

Once it passes through our area, it moves laterally to Mt. Simon in Decatur. There, it’s pushed more than a mile, 5,800 feet down into wells that deposit the liquefied Co2 into porous rock, known as a saline aquifer formation, and keep it there.

“You can’t inject forever,” Noppinger said, “but we think that in this area of the Mt Simon formation, we can inject over a million tons per year in each well for 30 years.”

How much Co2 will move through the pipeline?

The two Iowa plants that will start as the base of the pipeline produce a couple of million tons of Co2 each, according to Noppinger. The pipeline is planned to hold 12 million tons of Co2 annually.

Inside, the pressure will remain around 1,400 to 2,100 psi. For comparison, the average car tire holds 30 to 35 psi. The Co2 will also stay around 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Who is Wolf Carbon Solutions?

Wolf Carbon Solutions is a subsidiary of Wolf Infrastructure Canada, which is primarily owned by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. CPPB manages Canada’s pension plan fund which totals $570 billion in assets in the interest of 21 million people.

WCS has main offices in Denver, Colorado.

“We are a build-and-hold type of pipeline project, we tend to hold this and operate it for the life of the asset,” Noppinger said.

What’s the price tag for the pipeline?

There is no publicly known cost for the pipeline yet, according to WCS. However, their application to the State of Illinois said the building project will be funded through a “mix of equity and/or project financing facility” from a variety of lenders.

There is a significant amount of possible economic impact.

WCS will seek a federal tax credit first introduced in 2008 for Co2 storage known as “45Q.” The tax credit offers $85 per ton of sequestered Co2. If WCS seeks to sequester 12 million tons of Carbon per year, that could total $1.02 billion in credits in one year.

WCS said they also plan to charge fees for the manufacturers plugged into the pipeline. Right now that’s just two facilities in Iowa, but they are confidentially negotiating with facilities along the pipeline, and hope more will choose locations nearby so they can reduce their emissions.

Statewide, WCS reports in its application the project could generate an estimated $2.8 billion in economic impact across both states. They believe 4,499 jobs will be supported in the first year of construction and an average of 704 jobs every year of operation.

Beyond reducing emissions, carbon capture has the potential to feed back into the ethanol industry. Studies show using captured carbon in ethanol production can increase the operating margin of ethanol plants. That creates a trickling effect in the agricultural industry, especially for corn.

Coaster argues the majority of the economic benefits won’t be seen by the people living near the pipeline.

“The money to be made will be made by private companies,” Coaster said. “Peoria will not see one penny of it. So why would we put ourselves in that type of compromised safety situation?”