Red Trail Energy second ethanol plant to implement carbon capture

K. William Boyer
Devils Lake Journal

NORTH DAKOTA -  North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) approved the first Class VI project to store CO2 from Red Trail Energy’s ethanol plant in Richardton.

Red Trail is advancing the project utilizing the 45Q tax credit, which provides a critical revenue stream for new CCUS projects. Legislation was passed to expand the 45Q tax credit, and secured final 45Q regulations in January 2021. The tax credit provides up to $50 per ton of CO2 stored, helping make the project financially viable.   North Dakota is one of only two states to have this regulatory authority.

Red Trail Energy is only the second plant in the nation to put carbon capture in place.

Orders written by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) approve Red Trail Energy LLC (RTE) to geologically store CO2 from the RTE ethanol facility located near Richardton. Orders signed also determine the financial responsibilities and approve of the amalgamation of the storage reservoir pore space required to operate the facility.

The RTE facility currently emits an average of 180,000 metric tons of high-purity CO2 annually from the fermentation process during ethanol production. 

Wells are categorized in different classes by the EPA. A Class VI well is used to inject CO2 into deep rock formations for long-term storage – also referred to as geologic sequestration. Geologic carbon sequestration is a method of securing carbon dioxide in deep geologic formations to reduce or eliminate its release to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide can be captured from stationary sources such as powerplants and other large industrial facilities, compressed to a fluid state, and injected deep underground into permeable and porous geologic strata in which it will remain isolated. The geologic formation in which the gas is stored must be overlain by another layer of impermeable rock to seal in the injected CO2.

“North Dakota researchers began evaluating the state’s resources 18 years ago, and  policymakers began developing the legal and regulatory framework for Class VI geological storage 12 years ago," DMR Director Lynn Helms said. “The approval of the RTE permits marks a significant milestone in the economic development of North Dakota’s abundant geological resources.”

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who worked on getting the project passed, said that the state has been laying the groundwork for this achievement for more than a decade. 

“They’re able to do it because we put the legal and regulatory framework in place for them in North Dakota and secured the 45Q federal tax credit," Hoeven said. "By capturing and storing the ethanol plant’s emissions, this project will enable Red Trail Energy to sell their product in states with low-carbon fuel standards, helping to grow new market opportunities for the company and farmers in the region.”

Hoeven joined Red Trail Energy last year in announcing efforts to drill the carbon storage well being used for this carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) project. The senator also worked to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that provided a $25 million loan for Red Trail to construct its carbon capture, processing and storage facility.