NEVADA, Iowa — Built among the farm fields of central Iowa between Ames and Nevada, sits Lincolnway Energy. This ethanol plant has a big plan for the future.
Lincolnway Energy, which began operations in 2006 and produces upwards of 90 million gallons of ethanol a year, is one of more than two dozen producers who have partnered with Summit Carbon Solutions to capture and sequester their CO2 emissions, providing another financial touch-point for farmers.
"We're excited to partner up with Summit," said Chris Cleveland, plant manager at Lincolnway Energy. "I think it's growth. I think it's job security because this is going to let us sequester CO2 into the pipeline. (It's) a future for ethanol producers, a future for our farmers and our markets."
Lincolnway Energy, which began operations in 2006 and produces upwards of 90 million gallons of ethanol a year, is one of more than two dozen producers who have partnered with Summit Carbon Solutions to capture and sequester its CO2 emissions, providing another financial touch-point for farmers.
"What we're hoping for, what I'm hoping for, and what drives me every day is, this is another piece of revenue, another piece of strength for the balance sheet for US agriculture," said Summit CEO, Lee Blank. "That will continue to strengthen that US farm and that US farm gate balance sheet.
"This for an ethanol plant is going to allow us to go out and capture the premiums of the markets and the different markets coming online," Cleveland said of the partnership with the pipeline.
THE CARBON SPACE
CO2 is just part of the picture for ethanol producers. "I always think this is fascinating, Cleveland said, "you walk into a plant, you're grinding, it's an agriculture background, a dusty environment and all that. And then you come up with this pure to 100-proof alcohol," he said in the lab at Lincolnway, "I mean this stuff smells like rubbing alcohol."
Inside the lab at Lincolnway Energy, Cleveland shows me everything they can pull from corn. "Here's our corn coming in from the local farmers," he said holding up a container of corn kernels. "From this corn here, we're fermenting and producing your final 200-proof alcohol here," he says holding up a jar of crystal-clear liquid. "From there we extract this from the corn mash, this is where we dry and become dried distillers grains also," he said about the yellow-orange powder they create and ship. "Another good product we pull out is the corn oil."
And that yellow powder is DDG, or dried distillers grain. It's what is left of the corn after everything else is extracted. DDG is a product utilized worldwide.
"Dried distillers grains, you see how nice and yellow that is. That's big-time restrictions," Cleveland showed me. "You have to watch this stuff too but we've barged this all the way to China. So I mean it's worldwide. Ethanol is worldwide."
Now, with their partnership with Summit Carbon Solutions, they can capture and utilize their biggest throw-away product, carbon dioxide. Lincolnway already has some of the infrastructure in place to capture that CO2 and they plan to construct the rest in an empty lot on the property.
The end goal for all is a partnership that benefits these two businesses, and the Iowa farmer.
"Really what I liken it to maybe the transcontinental railroad, you know, in 1862 I believe, we decided as a country to open markets up and the railroad helped us do that. That's really what this does," said Blank. "If you think about the infrastructure project almost as logistics, it opens markets for plants like this one here in Nevada to give it other places that they can ship their products at a premium. Those premiums come back to the plant, strengthen the plant's balance sheet, help the plant grow its capacities. More demand for US corn, and more demand for US farmers."
Not just the US farmer, but Iowa.
"I believe it's a big part of the future of the family farms and the next generation," said Cleveland.
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"Along the Route: A Pipeline Discussion" is a multi-part series of reports looking at everything from the companies that want to build them to those "for" and those "against" and a deeper dive into to carbon and ethanol industries at the center of the project.
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