State renewable fuels leader says carbon capture vital for survival of ethanol industry in Iowa

MASON CITY — As the debate drags on about carbon capture pipelines in Iowa, the head of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says the carbon capture process is vital for the survival of the ethanol industry.

Monte Shaw says Iowa will soon start to lose some of the potential market for providing renewable products, including demand for ethanol-based jet fuel, as there’s more demand for ethanol with a lower carbon score. “All of our major export markets want low-carbon ethanol for their transportation sectors. We’re starting to lose sales for where we’re cheaper for Brazil’s lower carbon. You may think it’s stupid, but that’s the customer. The customer is putting that premium on lower carbon.”

Shaw says current American ethanol plants can’t cost-effectively produce ethanol with a lower carbon score that would be used for jet fuel without having the carbon captured and piped away underground to North Dakota or Illinois.  “We’re at about 55, typical ethanol plant, on the carbon grams per megajoule of carbon. We need to get down below 25, below 20, and then we’d be shipping our ethanol to that facility in Georgia and building facilities in Iowa instead of having them go to the trouble importing.”

Shaw says they also want to continue to work with the farming community on trying to get that carbon score lower.   “We want to be able to work with farmers to do on-farm practices that will lower carbon scores and then people who do that will get a premium for their corn, if we get the rules worked out to allow us to do that, just like you may say Brazil is already doing because of how they grow corn down there. We’ll still need carbon capture because they’ll still have that tool in their toolbox as well.”

Shaw says building the carbon capture infrastructure would immediately help ethanol producers get that carbon score down. 


31 (carbon4) “off the top”


(as above — “The second you flip the switch on carbon capture, you drop your carbon score by 30, so you are at 25 with carbon capture alone. There’s other things we can do in the plants, but they all ironically cost way more money than carbon capture to implement and reduce your carbon score by way less. The plants are doing other projects. Every plant has a list of projects they are doing to try to lower their carbon score, but you are trying to shave off one point here, three points here. Carbon capture is 30 points off the top.”) Shaw made his comments at the “State of North Iowa” event sponsored by the Mason City Chamber of Commerce.