Locals grill Carbon America on carbon capture project with Yuma Ethanol

Carbon America representatives were grilled by area residents during an open meeting about its proposed carbon capture project with Yuma Ethanol, last Wednesday at Skyview Garage in downtown Yuma.
Approximately 50-60 people attended the question-and-answer session, along with seven representatives from Carbon America. It appears Yuma Ethanol had one representative at the meeting, but was not actively involved with the presentation.
Trent Loos, a radio and podcast personality who advocates for the preservation of the agricultural way of life, was among those who attended and asked questions.
John Brown, external relations director for Carbon America, led the meeting. Others from Carbon America included the safety director, lead geologist, environmental compliance director, chief geologist, and drilling engineer.
The proposed carbon capture and storage project would capture 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, and store it in a geologic formation nearly 5,000 feet underground. The CO2 would be captured at Yuma Ethanol’s stacks, then transported via underground pipeline approximately 15 miles from Yuma Ethanol to the injection site about 15 miles southwest of Yuma located a short ways across the county line into Washington County.
Brown said the project will last at least 12 years as that currently is the length of the tax credits incentivizing Yuma Ethanol and Carbon America to pursue it.
Brown said the project would open markets for Yuma Ethanol and improve its competitive landscape with other ethanol plants.
Carbon America has located a site 4,832 feet below ground that meets EPA standards for a CO2 injection site. The company drilled a geological sampling well at the Washington County location earlier this year. The site is located on Colorado State Lands.
The CO2 would be injected into porous rock that contains fluids too salty to meet EPA drinking water standards.
Brown stressed that the actual project still is quite a ways off as the EPA permitting process will take at least two years. The EPA demands conditions that ensure the CO2 will be trapped for 100 years or more. That would be made possible due to a thick layer of caprock located above the injection zone nearly 5,000 feet below ground.
If permitted, Carbon America then will begin the process of negotiating leases with landowners along the proposed pipeline route. The pipeline will be placed four feet below ground.
Carbon America’s Jessica Gregg stressed the company will need to find agreeable landowners, and cannot use eminent domain to force landowners to participate. There would be a 500-foot setback from water lines, structures and other agricultural-related locations.
“We’ll make it work best for you,” Brown said.
Construction would involve 50 temporary jobs, but some are highly technical. When completed and online, the system would require three to five full-time jobs. It will require four megawatts of power.
A lot of ground was covered during the meeting, which lasted all of its scheduled two hours, and then some. Therefore, this article will simply follow the questions and answers as they came up.
One person asked Brown how would the plants, animals and people being able to live if they start capturing all the CO2 in the atmosphere.
Brown said there is an enormous amount of CO2, and this project would remove a minute amount of 175,000 metric tons.
“It will just help Mother Nature do its job,” he said, noting the oceans, trees and soil are the major carbon sinks. “…Taking some out of the air will help the Earth in its natural process. There’s no danger of us running out of CO2.”
Loos asked the Carbon America people about insurance companies dropping property owners because of CO2 pipelines going through their land. He said he had four letters from property owners in North Dakota and South Dakota losing their insurance because of a pipeline.
The Carbon American people said they were unaware of that and would look further into it.
Loos brought up kill zone data in regards to CO2 pipeline ruptures.
Gregg said the Yuma Ethanol pipeline would have constant, detailed monitoring to catch leaks, and would be shut down immediately if there was one.
A Carbon America representative responded to the kill zone comment that the projects Loos was referencing were much bigger. A slide was shown that studies show if the pipeline was punctured, the impacted area would be a 1/20 of an acre, even those within the most dangerous leak area would have 15 minutes to simply walk away a short distance — and that was based on an independent study based on a worst-case scenario with the pipeline above ground, not four feet under.
Brown said CO2 is non-flammable. He noted that there are 3.3 million miles of underground pipeline in the United States, including 500 miles of pipeline in Yuma and Washington counties. He said 1.6 billion tons of hazardous materials are transported through pipelines. Brown said the same strict safety standards for all pipelines will be utilized for this one.
He made the point that there are strict airplane safety standards in the U.S. and even though there are rare wrecks, people still get on airplanes, the same for people still using vehicles despite accidents.
One guy asked several questions and talked about explosions, and told Brown he was spending a lot of time on answers the guy didn’t like, adding that Brown doesn’t have good answers. The same guy said that the proposed project is utilizing “fake money for a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Several people in attendance voiced displeasure with the poor conditions of the county roads they use each day, following the installation of the drill site in Washington County. Kim Harman pointed out that Carbon America representatives stated in March the company would leave the roads in better shape than they found them. She also noted the company made a “massive road” to the drill site on state land.
Carbon America representatives admitted some of the big equipment required for the drill site did cause damage. (A comment that it created “divots” elicited laughs from those who travel those roads.)
Gregg said she drove those same roads after the damage occurred and called her company about needing to fix them.
Gregg said Carbon America was going to fix them, but Washington County Road & Bridge showed up and told her they would take care of it. She was asked who it was with WashCo R & B who told her that, but Gregg said she could not remember their names.
Loos kept stating that CO2 pipelines are dangerous, more than once referencing an incident in Mississippi. He also said CO2 pipelines are being rejected in other states.
Brown stressed one incident does not make all pipelines bad. He said Carbon America will have to get the permit first before moving forward with the pipeline, adding that it will be local county governments that will have the final say in approving the permit.
Kenny Rogers grilled the Carbon America representatives for proof that it is safe to store carbon dioxide deep underground.
It was explained the CO2 would be injected into porous rock, and would co-exist with the saline water, not replace it, and gradually spread out. Rogers was told the EPA is very strict with such projects, and that multiple authors were involved in the study to determine it was safe.
Rogers said he has not found any studies showing CO2 injection is safe over the long-term, asking for some data.
Chuck Miller asked several questions about leases with the landowners along the pipeline route. He stressed the need for transparency, such as no non-disclosure agreements, so all landowners will be treated fairly and paid the same rate.
Brown said Carbon America would need a right-of-away for the pipeline, a 60-foot temporary easement during installation, and a 30-foot permanent easement, but no private property rights would be taken away. Miller was told the company will work with landowners, and will have to alter the pipeline route if a property owner does not want involved.
Miller said it was important the leases include most favored nations clause, which means all landowners receive the same treatment and favorable terms. He was told Carbon America is going to work under that concept. However, he said it actually needs to be written into the lease agreements at the very top.