Summit Carbon CEO Lee Blank comments on pipeline project

Summit Carbon Solutions CEO Lee Blank shared some information about the proposed carbon pipeline project through Montgomery County in an interview with the Red Oak Express.
Blank said the information was to help clear up misconceptions about the project. Blank said the pipeline project is three stages.
“It’s a capture stage at the bio refineries where we’re capturing the carbon. We can’t put the carbon in the ground in Iowa because the geological storage isn’t here. It wouldn’t stay there. You get the credits for what you’re trying to accomplish by keeping it where it needs to be, which doesn’t happen in the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, or South Dakota,” Blank said.
The pipeline, Blank said, is to get the carbon to a place where it can be sequestered and held.
“In North Dakota, we do sequester it under the cap rock in the sub strata. There’s millions of tons and years of storage in North Dakota. We’re doing it because, while we don’t argue climate change as a company, what we do know is that the people that do believe in climate change are willing to pay a premium for low carbon products. Those markets are growing, and agriculture has always maneuvered and evolved to meet those markets. With this infrastructure project, we’ll allow the ethanol industry to lower their carbon intensity substantially, hitting those lower carbon product markets and driving a premium for their product, which comes back to the ethanol plant. Those economics filter back to the farmer, and the farmer sells one out of every two bushes of corn to the U.S. ethanol industry. It’s the largest consumptive market, and our whole goal here is to make sure it remains healthy and has a long runway for the U.S. corn farmer. I come from agriculture, and I believe it can have a positive effect,” commented Blank.
Summit’s carbon plan has extended to include 14 additional miles of carbon pipeline through Montgomery County. Hearings were requested to begin in April, but the request was denied by the Iowa Utilities Board. Blank said the timing choice wasn’t perfect.
“When we submitted those dates to the IUB, we should have been more thoughtful. We don’t currently have our first permit, and we want to be patient until we get one. More importantly, we want the farmer to get his corn and bean crop in. The dates we proposed could have been better, as they’d be right in the middle of field work,” advised Blank. “The IUB had that same thought, and they’d rather the Iowa farmer be done planting. We absolutely agree with that. We don’t know the exact dates yet. I can confidently say sometime over the summer, but we really want to get the ruling on the first IUB permit, then make a decision on how we move forward on that next round of public meetings. They could be in June, but it’s conjecture on my part. We’ll put a plan in place over the next several weeks.”
While the POET and Valero plants have joined the pipeline project, Blank said the maximum size of the pipeline has not increased.
“Our main line is still 24 inches, which is the biggest pipe that we have on the project. We’ve gotten that question a lot. We hadn’t contemplated Navigator’s project failing, but we did see with the new 45Q credit for carbon oxide sequestration going up in value, that other industries could work on this particular infrastructure system like coal plants or fertilizer plants that have a carbon emission. We took the time and opportunity to go ahead and increase the size of the pipe a long time ago, maybe two years ago, but we didn’t do it with the anticipation of all the POET and Valero plants coming, we did it with the anticipation that other carbon emitters would come on the system. Now, with the signing of Valero and POET, we have 16 million tons on the system, and we believe we can handle 18 million tons. We’re not full, but we’re closer to being full. However, we did not have to increase the pipe size or the infrastructure project based on POET and Navigator. We’d already done it,” explained Blank.
One of the questions repeatedly raised was the plume modeling for the project. Blank shared the process following for the information.
“We are sharing the plume modeling with emergency and first responders, and we’ve been asked by the IUB not to share the plume modeling. Under confidentiality, we’re sharing it with emergency responders. Ultimately, the IUB asked us not to make that model public, so we’re abiding by what the IUB asked of us in our process. Under certain circumstances, we’re glad to talk to a landowner or show it to a landowner if they’d like to see it and walk through it, but we’re not releasing it to the general public,” Blank stated.
The Red Oak Express reached out to Montgomery County Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Hamman and Red Oak Fire Chief John Bruce, who commented they had not seen the plume modeling for Summit Carbon Solutions project. The Express followed up with Summit Carbon to see when local first responders would be given the plume modeling information.
Summit Carbon Solutions director of marketing and communications Sabrina Ahmed Zenor said the meeting was scheduled and they looked forward to educating first responders.
Hamman confirmed that a meeting had been scheduled as of April 4, after the Red Oak Express enquired about the scheduled meeting and when the above response from Summit was received.
Blank also commented about the safety of the pipeline, as a carbon rupture was a major concern among affected landowners.
“The infrastructure is carbon steel. You almost have to want to break It to do so. We’ll have a control center for the project in Ames. That control center will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year. We’ll also have redundancy. We’ll have another one. It could be in Des Moines, or Sioux Falls. We want it someplace so if we have a power outage in Ames, we have another center where we can continue to monitor the system. Also, the system will know there’s an issue long before anyone watching the system will know. There will be a pressure difference on the system, and we’ll be able to identify where that pressure variance comes from immediately. The system will then take action to appropriately shut down that section in a fashion that’s safest and most prudent,” Blank said. “We can manually override it, but the system is designed, and with the technology available, we can do the pipeline in an effective and safe manner that wasn’t available 20 years ago. I believe this will be the safest system built in the history of the country.”
Blank felt a rupture would most likely be from a someone not calling 811 and poking an unmarked section with a backhoe tine.
“If that happens, the person on the backhoe won’t even know that happened. The pressure release will be so small that while the system will notify us immediately, they won’t have a clue. It’s a small release, and the main warning sign would be a patch of frost on the ground, or a small plume,” Blank commented.
A big question asked repeatedly by landowners was if someone would feel safe living within a mile of a carbon pipeline. Blank said he would have no problems.
“I absolutely would feel comfortable. As an analogy to that, the pipe across Northern Iowa runs approximately three quarters of a mile from my in-laws’ home. My father in law wishes it was across his land based on some of the right-of-way payments and those things. But yes, I’d feel very comfortable living within one mile of the pipeline. I’d feel comfortable living even closer than that,” Blank advised. “There’s 44,000 miles of commodity pipeline that run through the state of Iowa. They’re all around us, and we never see them. Much more dangerous products like natural gas that are flammable and explosive are running through those pipelines. I would say a propane tank sitting next to a farmstead is a much higher risk that a carbon pipeline, and they are everywhere. I feel very comfortable about the safety of a carbon pipeline running through the state within a certain proximity to a farmstead, or cattle operation or whatever other location there would be.”
Lastly, Blank confirmed that the pipeline in Montgomery County would only be six inches.
“The pipeline is six inches for both laterals in Montgomery County, and expands to eight inches when it moves into Pottawattamie County. It’s carbon steel, which is heavy, and thick piping that we’re putting into the ground,” stated Blank.

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