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First carbon capture, store project allowed in US begins operations in Richardton

Red Trail Energy, LLC announced that it officially began carbon capture and storage at its ethanol facility located near Richardton, North Dakota, on June 16.

Red Trail Energy announces it officially began carbon capture and storage at its facility, pictured above, located near Richardton, North Dakota, on June 16, 2022.
Red Trail Energy announces it officially began carbon capture and storage at its facility, pictured above, located near Richardton, North Dakota, on June 16, 2022. The RTE ethanol plant is the first carbon capture and storage project allowed under state primacy in the United States.
Contributed / Red Trail Energy
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RICHARDTON, N.D. — Red Trail Energy (RTE), LLC, is the first carbon capture and storage project allowed under state primacy in the United States and commenced their operations in earnest on June 16 at its ethanol facility located in the western North Dakota town of Richardton.

RTE Chief Executive Officer Gerald Bachmeier noted that after six years of research, development and investment, the North Dakota-based investor group is, “celebrating this historic moment” as the first facility to be permitted. Bachmeier highlighted the state and national first.

“Our success establishes a trail for other industries in the state to follow,” Bachmeier said. “The significance of implementing this project cannot be understated. From the beginning we wanted to set Red Trail Energy apart from other ethanol plants and this project puts us ahead of the curve in terms of lowering the carbon intensity of our ethanol.”

North Dakota was the first state to be granted primacy from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018; Wyoming would follow suit two years later in 2020.

“North Dakota regulators and policymakers have long seen the importance of creating a regulatory framework that complies with the federal rules while managing the pore space resource for the benefit of North Dakota property owners. Receiving primacy from the EPA paved the way for projects like this one to become operational in the state and this is a large step towards making North Dakota a leader in carbon neutrality and a showcase for the rest of the world on how to treat carbon,” Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said.

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Carbon capture and storage, according to the National Grid website , is a way to reduce carbon emissions, by stripping carbon dioxide molecules off of emissions, compressing and transporting it to a site for storage before finally injecting it into rock formations deep underground for permanent storage.

According to the news release, RTE’s ethanol production has a lower carbon footprint than conventional ethanol sources as a result of carbon capture. RTE shared that this project not only allows them to be better stewards of the environment, but places more value on ethanol in a clean fuel market.

100421.AG.EthanalDroughtCountermovesA04.jpg
Gerald Bachmeier, chief executive officer of Red Trail Energy LLC of Richardton, North Dakota, stands next to the well-head for injecting liquefied carbon dioxide a mile into the earth, protecting the environment, on Sept. 27, 2021.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The Richardton ethanol plant emits an average of 180,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually from the fermentation process during ethanol production. With carbon capture and storage, RTE is capturing 100% of its carbon dioxide emissions from the fermentation process and is injecting approximately 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide on a daily basis. The carbon dioxide is permanently stored underground more than a mile below the surface in the Broom Creek formation.

According to a previous article featured in The Dickinson Press, ethanol plants, such as RTE, have looked to use carbon storage to capitalize on California's clean fuel standard, while a federal tax credit has also drawn investment into carbon capture by many industrial and coal companies as a way of making their businesses cleaner and more economic for the long-term.

In October of 2021, less than five months after receiving the RTE application, the North Dakota Industrial Commission approved the Class VI injection well and the reservoir pore space RTE needed to operate the facility. In order to get approval, RTE had to demonstrate the Broom Creek formation contained the characteristics needed for proper carbon dioxide storage.

These characteristics include a deep porous layer to absorb the carbon dioxide, but also contain impermeable rock layers above and below the Broom Creek formation that keeps the carbon dioxide from escaping into the atmosphere or groundwater. The Richardton facility is utilizing state-of-the-art monitoring technology from the Japan Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth for real time carbon dioxide plume monitoring.

“We are thankful for the North Dakota Industrial Commission and the staff at the Department of Mineral Resources who never gave up on receiving Class VI primacy from the EPA. We are especially grateful to the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) for their dedication to understanding North Dakota’s geologic storage potential, without them this wouldn’t be possible,” Bachmeier added.

The Red Trail Energy ethanol plant in Richardton, North Dakota, is shown.
The Red Trail Energy ethanol plant in Richardton, North Dakota, is shown.
Contributed / Red Trail Energy

The EERC has been researching and testing the geologic storage potential of North Dakota’s resources for decades, EERC Chief Executive Officer Charlie Gorecki said, adding that the location of RTE’s ethanol facility “always made it a perfect candidate” for carbon capture and storage.

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“It is rewarding to see this carbon capture and storage project begin in North Dakota,” Gorecki said.

Congressman Kelly Armstrong, R-ND, released his statement Monday, July 18, applauding the Richardton-based facility for marking an early milestone in the state's mission to establish itself as a national leader in carbon capture and storage.

“North Dakota is a leader in carbon capture technology,” Armstrong said. “It is fitting that the first facility permitted under state primacy to capture and store CO2 is in our state, where local regulators are best equipped to review these projects. Congratulations to Red Trail Energy on this historic milestone that will pave the way for CCUS across the country.”

READ MORE BY JACKIE JAHFETSON
“There’s a little bit of something for everyone. You come with your family, your kids can find something, the moms can find something, the dads can find something,” Jessica Quandt, owner of JQ Clothing, said.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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