Illinois Ethanol Plant Will Test Green Methanol Plan, Possible Alternative to Pipelines

by Erin Jordan

CapCO2 and Adkins Energy will do technology and economic study this summer, pilot as soon as fall
A company that wants to use carbon dioxide from ethanol plants as an ingredient to make green methanol has signed a deal with an Illinois plant.

CapCO2 Solutions and Adkins Energy LLC, based in Lena, Ill., will partner for a project to test technology that would capture CO2 at the plant, combine it with hydrogen and turn it into green methanol — a desirable renewable fuel.

“The ethanol industry is anxious for alternatives to the CO2 pipeline proposals,” Josh Manske, board member of the Iowa Farmers Union and National Farmers Union, said in a news release this week. “The agricultural world has been looking for just such a solution.”

CapCO2 CEO Jeff Bonar visited Iowa and Illinois in March to meet with ethanol plant owners, farmers and other stakeholders to promote his product as an alternative to CO2 pipelines — contentious in Iowa because two of the projects want to use eminent domain to gain access to privately held land to build the underground pipelines.

Pipeline companies plan to sequester the CO2 underground, but also have announced plans to use the CO2 from ethanol plants as an ingredient for other materials, such as jet fuel.

The difference between those plans and what CapCO2 has proposed is the CapCO2 process would be done at the ethanol plant versus having to pipe the CO2 elsewhere.

Real Carbon Tech, a Polish firm that developed the technology being used by CapCO2 in the United States, built the system in shipping containers that can be set up outside ethanol plants. As an ethanol plant emits CO2, the gas is captured, compressed and processed with hydrogen.

The end product is methanol, a fuel being used in some industries to replace diesel.

Danish shipping giant Maersk announced in November it needs 6 million tons of green methanol a year to reach its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target and even more by 2040 to get to net zero emissions.

CapCO2 and Adkins will do a “detailed techno-economic study” this summer and hope to have the pilot project running six to 12 months later, CapCO2 CEO Jeff Bonar told The Gazette this week.
Whether methanol can be considered “green” depends on whether it’s produced with hydrogen made with renewable energy.

The plant in Lena, about an hour east of Dubuque, is near the Byron Nuclear Generating Station.
“We are planning to working with a local nuclear plant (zero carbon electricity) that can supply large quantities of underutilized zero carbon electricity, making the green hydrogen production less expensive than typical,” Bonar said. “We are still working out details, but this looks like a very cost-effective solution for Adkins.”

Methanol would be shipped out by rail. Bonar said his company will be securing a contract for transporting the finished product in the coming months.

*Article originally appeared in The Gazette.