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US Aims to Produce Green Jet Fuel from Ethanol
US Aims to Produce Green Jet Fuel from Ethanol

US Aims to Produce Green Jet Fuel from Ethanol

  • 15-Nov-2023 3:49 PM
  • Journalist: Nicholas Seifield

The progress of the United States in advancing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) derived from ethanol confronts potential delays due to increasing opposition to proposed pipelines designed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol plants. These pipelines aim to capture carbon dioxide and transport it to other states for storage, thereby reducing the climate impact of ethanol. However, this initiative is facing resistance from various quarters, casting doubts on the future growth of U.S. biofuel producers, including industry players such as POET and Valero. These entities had pinned their hopes on carbon capture and storage (CCS) pipeline projects across the heartland.

The necessity of these pipeline projects stems from their role in significantly lowering the climate impact of ethanol, thereby meeting the criteria for the fuel to be considered a viable feedstock for SAF under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The Biden administration has set ambitious targets, committing to producing 3 billion gallons of SAF annually by 2030 and an even more substantial 35 billion gallons by 2050. This commitment aligns with the broader goal of decarbonizing the airline industry while simultaneously supporting the ethanol sector and the corn farmers integral to its supply chain.

The proposed pipeline projects represent a crucial component of this strategy. They aim to redirect millions of tons of CO2 from Midwest ethanol processing plants to other states for underground storage, effectively curbing emissions. However, the unfolding scenario includes concerns from residents along the pipeline routes who fear potential leaks or the seizure of their land for project construction. This tension between environmental and community considerations adds a layer of complexity to the implementation of carbon capture and storage initiatives.

Recent developments have added to the challenges faced by the ethanol industry. Omaha-based Navigator CO2 Ventures, a key player in this space, recently canceled its proposed pipeline project. Meanwhile, two other projects, spearheaded by Summit Carbon Solutions in Iowa and Wolf Carbon Solutions in Denver, encounter obstacles in the form of permitting delays and public resistance.

Homer Bhullar, Vice President at Valero Energy, emphasized the pivotal role of carbon capture and storage in integrating conventional ethanol into the SAF framework, highlighting its necessity under existing policies. Valero Energy, a biofuel producer and investor in Navigator, expressed the industry's dependence on successful carbon capture and storage initiatives during its quarterly earnings call on October 26.

The evolving landscape underscores the intricate balance required between environmental sustainability, economic considerations, and community engagement in the pursuit of SAF development. As the U.S. strives to meet its ambitious SAF production targets, addressing the concerns raised by pipeline opponents becomes crucial. Balancing the imperatives of decarbonization, economic growth, and community well-being will shape the trajectory of ethanol derived SAF in the country. The current challenges present an opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate, finding solutions that align with both environmental and societal goals, ultimately steering the aviation industry toward a more sustainable future.

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