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Biomass carbon capture project encounters obstacles in McFarland

A company based in the Midwest has halted a unique initiative aimed at converting local green waste into energy while sequestering the resulting carbon dioxide deep beneath McFarland.

San Joaquin Renewables LLC recently withdrew its application for a crucial federal injection permit. This decision came about six weeks after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified the company of a discrepancy in its paperwork.

The withdrawal coincided with two other setbacks: the abandonment of SJR’s plan to acquire city-owned land for the project, and a deadlock with a landowner who rejected the company’s offer to purchase mineral rights.

It remains unclear whether SJR intends to relocate or modify the project. Executives from the company and its parent company, Frontline BioEnergy based in Nevada, Iowa, did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

SJR had proposed injecting 1,200 metric tons of CO2 per day over 15 years. This greenhouse gas would have been derived from the gasification of woody agricultural waste for the commercial production of transportation fuel.

This project was the first in Kern County to propose managing carbon from biomass. While scientists and entrepreneurs recognize the potential of this technology, environmental justice activists have raised concerns about associated emissions and the risk of leaks.

Lorelei Oviatt, Director of the county’s Planning and Natural Resources Department, speculated that SJR and Frontline may return with a revised proposal.

“I’m sure they’re still interested in Kern County; the question now is where they might be considering relocating,” she stated on Wednesday.

McFarland Senior City Planner Brianahi De Leon confirmed that the city no longer intends to sell 80 acres of land to the company for the construction of a gasification operation on a former alfalfa field site that previously served as the city’s municipal wastewater treatment system.

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