A closer look at carbon intensity scoring

A farmer from eastern South Dakota says carbon intensity scores for corn might seem new, but he’s been getting that data on his crops for more than 10 years.

Ron Alverson tells Brownfield it started when California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard went into effect. The Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Technologies or GREET model is used to score the corn he grows to produce ethanol.

“Dakota Ethanol sells ethanol to California and we were always getting a carbon score. I started looking at the corn part of our carbon score and realized, jeez, we’ve got all of these opportunities because the U.S./Midwest carbon intensity score wasn’t reflecting what we were doing on our farm.”

Alverson says carbon intensity scoring is complex and the goal is to have a low score. He says the average carbon intensity score for corn production in the Midwest is 27 or 28 grams per mega jewel of ethanol energy produced. And he says most of that number is based on emissions released from the soil after nitrogen fertilizer is applied. Credits are given to the score if farmers participate in nutrient stewardship.

“You can check a box if you’re using the 4R nutrient management and it will remove four grams from that 27. Reduced tillage or no-till practices will remove 5 to 10 grams. There are people out there producing zero carbon corn and they don’t even realize it yet.”

He says once there’s more clarity in the process, carbon intensity scoring could be a game changer for agriculture and the ethanol industry as it becomes a feedstock for Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

Hear the interview.

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