BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — Health and Environment experts discussed the specific dangers of having a CO2 pipeline near large communities.

“If you are caught outside, that’s not going to be a good situation, and those folks are going to have to be rescued very quickly, depending on the concentration that they are overcome with,” said Curtis Jundt, a former natural gas engineer.

According to Jundt and other health experts, we breathe about .03 to .05 percent of CO2 in the air.
If a burst or rupture would happen to a CO2 pipeline, the air could be filled with carbon dioxide, which would not be good for us. But that also depends on how concentrated the CO2 is.

“If that CO2 at a concentration of 7 or 8 %, you don’t have a lot of time. We are talking about minutes before you will be essentially asphyxiate. If the concentration is 10%, you are pretty much not going to be able to recover from that,” said Jundt.

Unfortunately, asphyxiation isn’t the only thing CO2 can do to the human body.

“Elevated levels of CO2 in the blood causes the blood to acidify, which then leads to a range of health effects that are completely apart from oxygen deprivation,” said Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.

According to health experts, 4% concentration of CO2 is immediately dangerous.

“That’s because at that level, it begins to cause confusion, and because it’s not visible and has no odor, people often don’t recognize that they are in a dangerous environment and cannot take safety measures and go to an area where CO2 is no longer dangerous to their health,” said Dr. Schettler.

Also, CO2 is heavier than most gases, which means it moves along the ground, where people and animals breathe.

“An accidental release of CO2 from a pipeline will hug the ground and threaten the life of anyone in its path,” said Dr. Schettler.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, estimates there are around 90 workplace deaths in the U.S from CO2 exposure each year.

“This occurs in workplaces where there is CO2 used in refrigeration or is a byproduct of fermentation. It can happen in mines or other confined spaces,” said Dr. Schettler.

And when water interacts with CO2 in a pipeline, it lowers the stability of the pipeline, creating carbonic acid.

“Carbonic acid is extremely corrosive to pipes. Right now, from these natural sources, there is not a lot of water in CO2, but when we look at capturing CO2 from power plants and things like that, there will be more water and other impurities that poses both public health risks and pipeline integrity risks,” said Bill Caram, Pipeline Safety Trust Executive Director.

According to Jundt, pipeline failure happens in the U.S. every year.

“There is all sorts of pipeline failure throughout the U.S. every year, to the tune of almost 300 and the greatest percentage is from third party strikes. That’s construction equipment or AG equipment,” said Jundt.

There are three controversial carbon pipeline networks proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions: Navigator CO2 and Wolf Carbon Solutions. Both would cross the Midwest.
If built, the pipelines would stretch to more than 3,600 miles of the Midwest.

To learn about Summit Carbon Solution’s side of the pipeline, click here.