The heart of the Midwest, Illinois farms and communities have served the people of their state and nation for generations. Illinois is the country’s second-largest corn-producing state and third-largest producer of ethanol. Illinois is a key supplier of the products needed to keep our country fed and fueled. It also means Illinois’ economy relies on demand for these products to remain afloat. Thanks to carbon capture technology, we can increase demand for Illinois corn and ethanol while spurring job creation, investment, and value-added agriculture.

Carbon capture is a method of carbon management that traps carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions before they reach the atmosphere. Carbon capture technology will be a cornerstone of America’s future and is an important asset to Illinois farms and communities. Why? Because as our country transitions to lower-carbon fuel sources, carbon capture will help position ethanol as a viable lower-carbon biofuel. Carbon capture projects support production of low-carbon biofuels which ensures local demand for corn and abundant supplies of feed in the future. By expanding Illinois’ carbon capture infrastructure, we can protect the long-term competitiveness of ethanol, the ability to buy corn and supply feed, and expand markets for farmers now and in the future.

Beyond increasing the value and demand of corn and ethanol, carbon capture will help strengthen Illinois’ economy by creating thousands of new jobs and attracting billions of dollars in investment. In a study conducted by the Regional Carbon Capture Deployment Initiative, researchers found carbon projects in Illinois can create 4,400 project jobs annually over a 15-year period and more than 2,600 ongoing operations jobs. Additionally, the Initiative concluded the development of carbon transport infrastructure can generate up to $15.3 billion in private investment for the state. Carbon capture will be an economic breakthrough for Illinois and contribute to the livelihoods of friends, families and neighbors, and local communities.

When considering deployment of carbon capture in Illinois, there is one consideration that rises above the rest - the safety of local communities. The fact is carbon pipelines are, and have always been, safe for the people and land of Illinois and across the country. For over 50 years, CO2 pipelines have been built in many rural communities with minimal impacts to property and the natural landscape. We can attribute the success and safety of these projects to the many operators, landowners, trade associations, engineers, community stakeholders, and regulatory agencies that oversee their construction and maintenance.

The safest and most responsible carbon projects start with collaboration. By actively seeking opportunities to work closely with property owners, community stakeholders, and experienced trade associations, project operators can better understand the needs of the local community and be the best neighbor and partner possible. Vice versa, community partners who engage with project operators have an important opportunity and responsibility to raise their voices and participate in the construction process to ensure its safety. 

State trade workers, such as the Illinois Pipe Trades Association (IPTA), play an especially valuable role in a project’s construction. Project operators depend on highly skilled and experienced IPTA pipefitters, pipeliners, plumbers, and welders to ensure the resilience and quality of their piping systems. At the same time, local communities can feel at ease knowing their fellow Illinoisans not only have their best interests at heart but have undergone rigorous training that shapes them into the most qualified experts for the project. 

Pipefitters Local 597 (PF 597), a member of the IPTA, is just one example of the training programs pipe trades workers complete prior to joining the workforce. PF 597 has a main training facility located in Mokena, IL, and two additional satellite centers in Palatine, IL, and Crown Point, IN, ensuring everyone has access to the training they need. All PF 597 workers must complete a 5-year apprenticeship program regulated by the Department of Labor. The program requires a minimum 1,100 hours of training and 7,500 hours of on-the-job experience. Additionally, PF 597 invests approximately $30 million annually to training in their Mokena facility alone. With 25 full-time instructors and a main facility open 6 days a week, 14 hours a day, Illinois pipe trades workers can hone their craft to be at the top of their game for themselves and their communities.

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And though the construction of a project may end, the partnership between operators and local stakeholders does not. Project operators monitor pipelines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The carbon transportation infrastructure is also proactively inspected by pipeline operators and engineers to monitor any issues that may arise. In addition to monitoring, operators perform regular maintenance checks and make corrections as needed to ensure the safety of the pipeline. Furthermore, all CO2 pipelines are subject to regular inspections by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. All this and more ensures that the pipeline continues to be safe for Illinois land, communities, and property owners.

Carbon capture technology is a key component to a prosperous future for Illinois farmers and communities. As Illinois continues to be a leader in corn and ethanol production, it can also be a leader in other ways, such as being at the forefront of adoption for innovative carbon capture technology. Carbon capture implementation is an economic win for Illinois, from fostering job creation to enhancing the value of agriculture. By establishing a respectful and responsible relationship with local communities, carbon capture projects can help protect and advance the next generation of state farmers and property owners.

Joe Heinrich is the Executive Director of the Smart Carbon Network and Rick Terven, Jr. is the Legislative & Political Director for the Illinois Pipe Trades Association, representing 22 local unions and 30,000 piping industry workers in Illinois.

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