ADM to bury carbon from ethanol plant
By Timothy Gardner
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Archer Daniels Midland Co, a major food processor, said it is working with business and government groups in the Midwest on an $84 million project to bury planet-warming gas emissions from an ethanol plant starting next year.
The project will be one of the first in the United States to use carbon sequestration technology. Carbon burial is unproven, but has the potential to be a crucial weapon against greenhouse emissions by keeping carbon dioxide from some of the dirtiest industries from reaching the atmosphere.
ADM is working with the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium and the Illinois State Geological Survey on the project. The U.S. Department of Energy will give the project $66.7 million over a period of seven years, and additional monies will be given by ADM and other corporate and state resources, the second-largest U.S. ethanol producer said in a statement.
"We see potential for carbon sequestration to improve the environmental footprint of biofuels by further reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Dennis Riddle, ADM president of corn processing, said in a statement.
The carbon dioxide captured at ADM's ethanol plant will come from the fuel's fermentation process, Robert Finley, an expert at the ISGS, said in an interview.
Carbon emissions from ethanol's fermentation process represent a small amount of global output of gases blamed for global warming, but such ethanol projects could lead to greater understanding of the potential of the technology for other industries, he said.
If U.S. ethanol producers widely adopt carbon sequestration, it could relieve pressure on the rapidly growing industry from environmentalists. While the industry has touted ethanol as a green fuel, it is currently mostly made from corn in the United States. Many environmentalists say the life cycle of ethanol from corn emits about the same amount of carbon dioxide as gasoline.
Carbon sequestration is expensive but experts hope its costs will be eased by a future national U.S. greenhouse gas market that would put a price on emitting such gases.
Power plants that burn coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, are expected to be the largest sector to adopt carbon capture and sequestration. But other carbon emitters such as natural gas plants are also exploring the technology.
The ADM project, at its ethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois, is scheduled to begin drilling a 6,500 foot (1,980 meter) injection well in a few months and start injecting the gas into porous sandstone deposits in late 2009. It will conclude in 2012. The project hopes to confirm the ability of the sandstone formation there to store 1 million tons of carbon dioxide over the three years.
(Additional reporting by Dilipp S. Nag in Bangalore, editing by Matthew Lewis)