Putting Carbon to Work:

Biorefineries’ Critical Contributions to Net-Zero


Bioprocessing facilities play a significant role in driving down carbon emissions, by producing biofuels that help reduce emissions in cars on the road today. In fact, biofuels like ethanol reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent compared to regular gasoline.

Beyond these emissions reductions on the road, bioprocessing facilities are investing in new technologies like carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), to reduce their facilities’ own carbon footprint and repurpose the clean, biogenic, and 99.9% pure carbon created during the ethanol fermentation process for use by a range of industries and for multiple purposes, from treating municipal water and carbonating beverages to creating fabrics and bioplastics, providing the dry ice needed to store vaccines, and helping to keep food fresh.

At Growth Energy, we’re working with policymakers to further incentivize carbon capture and support the work of biofuel producers who are leading the charge.

How does CCUS work?

Capture: Bioprocessing facilities capture carbon created during the ethanol fermentation process. The captured carbon is 99.9% pure and biogenic and contains no additional pollutants.

Utilization: That captured carbon is essential to many supply chains, from treating municipal water, carbonating beverages, helping preserve fresh food, storing vaccines, or creating fabrics and bioplastics.

Storage: Captured carbon can also be safely stored deep below ground. Storage sited are monitored to ensure that carbon stays out of the atmosphere and that water resources are protected.

Transport: However, not all bioprocessing facilities can store carbon on sit. Carbon transport and storage systems will be an important tool for many bioprocessing facilities located far from geological formations suitable for carbon storage or other applications vital to a low-carbon economy.

What are the benefits of carbon capture? 

In order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, CCUS will have an important role to play, especially when it comes to producing renewable, low-carbon biofuels and ultimately net-negative biofuels. CCUS as part of a broader strategy helps ensure we can continue to drive down emissions and reduce the carbon footprint of already low-carbon, renewable biofuels, and maximizes their climate benefit. Ultimately, this will support clean energy jobs and help achieve the deep decarbonization we need in the transportation sector. In addition, CCUS — utilization — can be an important revenue stream for biofuels producers all while capturing and sequestering carbon emissions.

Biorefineries have long been pioneers in carbon capture technology, providing pure streams of CO2 for use by a range of industries and for multiple purposes, including for food, beverages, and dry ice. The captured carbon can also be sequestered underground where it will remain safely underground for millions of years.

Already, roughly 25 percent of the ethanol industry captures carbon dioxide. On average, each plant captures 99,000 to 153,000 tons of CO2 a year, and there is strong potential to expand on these carbon emission savings. Carbon capture and sequestration reduces ethanol’s carbon intensity by 25-30 points, which is a significant improvement in our industry’s quest to net-zero emissions.

If our goal is to reduce carbon emissions, then we have to use every tool in our toolbox, and that means building on our industry’s leadership through policies that support carbon capture.

How is Growth Energy supporting CCUS? 

At Growth Energy, we’re pushing for legislation that supports our members’ continued innovation and investment in transformational carbon capture technologies. We’re also members of the Carbon Capture Coalition, a nonprofit working to build federal policy support for carbon capture.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes a key priority for carbon capture products. Section 45Q provides a tax credit on a per-ton basis for carbon that is sequestered or utilized. The IRA extended the 45Q credit for carbon sequestration and utilization through 2032, raised the rates to $85/ton for sequestration and $60/ton for utilization, provided recipients satisfy the prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements, and allows for direct pay of the incentive.

To ensure this tax credit works for biofuel producers, we’re working to ensure a wide range of commercial applications are eligible for the utilization component of the credit, ensure entities can qualify for both 45Q and 40B, the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) standalone credit, and clarify direct pay transferability, specifically if 45Z, the clean fuel production tax credit, counts against the 5 years of direct pay. Learn more about these IRA priorities here.

Policies like these will help to ensure that biofuel producers continue to turbo-charge our climate progress, while supporting job growth in rural communities and offering consumers a cleaner, more affordable choice at the pump.

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