FutureGen

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FutureGen is a proposed 275 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in Mattoon, Illinois which would trial the use of Carbon Capture and Storage technology.

On August 5, 2010, the Obama administration awarded $1 billion to FutureGen 2.0, replacing the earlier plan.[1]

In July 2012 the FutureGen Alliance said it expected to start construction of the $1.65 billion project in late 2013 and to begin carbon storage and power production in 2017.[2]

Initial Site Announcement

On Dec. 18, 2007, the FutureGen Alliance announced[3] their plans to build the experimental FutureGen coal-fired plant, which would attempt to capture and sequester CO2 emissions; the project would cost an estimated $1.8 billion, and is being billed as "the world’s first coal fueled, near zero-emissions power plant." Mattoon was selected over several other locations; in July 2007, Illinois lawmakers had approved an $80 million incentive package designed to lure the project to Illinois. Construction is planned to begin by July 2009.[4]

FutureGen announcement its preferred site, Scientific American reported, "over the objections of its primary government backer, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).[5] In a media release issued on the same day as the FutureGen site announcement, the Department of Energy's Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, James Slutz, stated that "as the Department of Energy (DOE) has discussed with the FutureGen Alliance for the past several months, projected cost overruns require a reassessment of FutureGen's design." The release also noted that "DOE has not yet issued the Record of Decision (RoD), which is required to enable a final siting determination" and that the agency wanted a "restructuring" of the FutureGen proposal to "maximize the role of private sector innovation, facilitate the most productive public-private partnership, and prevent further cost escalation."[6]

DOE Withdraws Support for the Project

In January 2008, the U.S. DOE indicated that it plans to pull its support from the plant in part because of ballooning costs.[7] In May 2008 the DOE released an outline of a proposed new funding strategy. Instead of pouring funds into the proposed Mattoon plant, DOE proposed the funding of a number of projects "to accelerate the near-term deployment of advanced clean coal technology by equipping new IGCC or other clean coal commercial power plants - that generate at least 300 megawatts of power - with CCS technology". It stated that it expected that this approach would "at least double the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestered compared to the concept announced in 2003."[8] In a June 13 letter to FutureGen, the DOE stated that it had terminated all funding for the Mattoon project and would withdraw from the Alliance.[9]

Faced with the collapse of DOE support for the project, the alliance has flagged that hopes to enlist sufficient support in Congress "to keep FutureGen at Mattoon alive until the next Administration takes office."[10] In July 2008, Senate appropriators did just that by approving legislation that would postpone decisions on FutureGen until the next presidential administration.[11]

In December 2008, the FutureGen Alliance acquired a 400-plus acre site on which to build the plant. The group and the Illinios Deparment of Commerce and Economic Opportunity also released a report with geophysical data confirming the site's suitability for storing carbon dioxide captured from the proposed coal plant. Supporters of the plant hope that the new Obama Administration will provide federal backing for the project.[12]

In March, 2009, the Majority Staff of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology released a report concluding that FutureGen was a "public relations ploy":[13][14]

Based on how easily the Department of Energy abandoned the FutureGen project, it appears that President Bush, Secretary Bodman and the Office of Management and Budget were never fully committed to the FutureGen project or its goal of developing technology to allow the use of coal without massive emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and pollutants. In retrospect, FutureGen appears to have been nothing more than a public relations ploy for Bush Administration officials to make it appear to the public and the world that the United States was doing something to address global warming despite its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Obama administration revives FutureGen

In June 2009, Energy secretary Steven Chu announced a provisional agreement with the FutureGen Alliance to revive the project. Chu said that FutureGen is an important step for the Obama Administration's commitment to carbon capture technology. "The FutureGen project holds great promise as a flagship facility to demonstrate carbon capture and storage at commercial scale. Developing this technology is critically important for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and around the world," Chu stated in a media release.[15]

The announcement of the DOE's renewed interest in the project was jointly announced in a media release by Chu and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL). The media release quoted Durbin who claimed that "in my time in Congress, I can't recall a project that has greater scientific and practical significance than FutureGen, not to mention the enormous economic benefit it will have in Illinois."[15] In November 2008 Durbin had met with the board members of the alliance. Following the meeting, Durbin issued a media release in which he stated that "we are going to work hard to make sure that the new Secretary of Energy and the new Administration make an early commitment to FutureGen so we can move forward." Durbin also stated that others at the meeting were Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL), representatives from the offices of Congressmen Tim Johnson (R-IL) and Jerry Costello (D-IL). Durbin also boasted that since DOE's initial withdrawal he had written to "the White House to inform the President of his intention to hold all DOE nominations until FutureGen project moved forward. Durbin has held three nominations this year."[16]

The Department of Energy plans to contribute just over $1 billion to the project; most of the federal funds will come from the economic stimulus law. DOE plans to restart design work, issue an new cost estimate, and prepare an analysis of potential underground sequestration sites through early 2010. DOE will then reach a decision about whether to proceed.[17][18]

The agreement between DOE and FutureGen also requires "expansion of the Alliance sponsorship group." DOE also stated that "the FutureGen Alliance's total anticipated financial contribution is $400 million to $600 million, based on a goal of 20 member companies each contributing a total of $20 million to $30 million over a four to six year period. The Alliance, with support from DOE, will pursue options to raise additional non-federal funds needed to build and operate the facility, including options for capturing the value of the facility that will remain after conclusion of the research project, potentially through an auction of the residual interests in the late fall."[15] (As of June 2009, the Alliance had 11 member companies.)[19]

Two companies withdraw from FutureGen Alliance

Less than two weeks after Chu's announcement in June 2009 that the FutureGen project was being revived, American Electric Power and Southern Company announced they were leaving the Alliance. AEP described the company's exit as purely a financial decision. Both companies said they would pursue their own clean coal initiatives.[20]

Michael J. Mudd, chief executive of the alliance, said the group had started with seven partners and at one point expanded to thirteen. The Alliance is now down to nine members and is seeking a total of twenty.[21] Former partners Luminant and PPL pulled out after the Bush administration withdrew support for the project.[22] Without a utility partner to take over the plant after construction and testing, the FutureGen project could again lose DOE support.[20]

Australian government Withdraws Support

In May 2010 the Australian government announced that, after having joined the project in 2008, it too had withdrawn from FutureGen. Announcing the decision in the federal budget, the government revealed that participation would save it $15 million. The government provided no details on the reasons for its withdrawal but was at pains to point out that had previously committed $2.0 billion in funding to the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program and $400 million over four years to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.[23]

Funding Delays Construction

In July 10, 2010 the Department of Energy said its FutureGen funding was postponed by six months, if not more. In June 2010, FutureGen Alliance CEO Mike Mudd said there was a gap between funding commitments by DOE and the alliance corporate partners of several hundred million dollars for the "clean energy" project with an estimated price tag of more than $2 billion.[24]

Obama awards $1 billion for FutureGen 2.0

On August 5, 2010, the Obama administration awarded $1 billion to "FutureGen 2.0," replacing the earlier plan to build a first-of-a kind, "clean coal" power plant in Illinois using a different technology. Supporters of the latest version say it will create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Opponents contend the clean coal technology is less developed and more expensive than cleaner renewable energy. The U.S. Energy Department said the money would go to the FutureGen Alliance, the same group that backed the original "clean coal" project, along with Ameren, Babcock & Wilcox, and Air Liquide Process and Construction. The money will retrofit a now-shuttered Ameren coal-fired power plant in the western Illinois town of Meredosia, and establish a pipeline network to transport and store more than one million tons of carbon-dioxide a year in Mattoon, Ill., the site of the original project.[1]

Instead of underwriting the original project, which would have turned coal into a hydrocarbon gas, filtered out the carbon and burned the hydrogen, the government said it would remake an obsolete oil-burning plant in Meredosia, Illinois. In the new design, the plant would be fed pure oxygen and burn coal, and the exhaust gas would consist of almost pure carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide would then be piped 170 miles east to Mattoon and injected underground, possibly along with contributions from an ethanol plant in Decatur, IL, and other industrial plants along the way.[25] The largest plant for burning oxygen is 10 megawatts; the plant in Meredosia would be 200 megawatts and the first of a commercial scale, making it the first commercial-scale demonstration of advanced oxy-combustion technology. According to the Energy Department, oxy-combustion burns coal with a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide instead of air to produce a concentrated carbon-dioxide stream for "safe, permanent storage." Coal companies hope the technology could help existing coal-fired power plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions without shifting to natural gas, and also meet proposed new Environmental Protection Agency regulations of traditional pollutants such as mercury.[1]

Under the new structure, the original FutureGen coalition would still manage the sequestration portion of the project and would arrange experiments with different types of coals. The oil-fired plant belongs to Ameren, which is based in St. Louis. It has not run much in recent years and has not generated any power since 2009. Some of the oxygen will be supplied by the French energy company Air Liquide, which relies on a conventional technology, chilling the air until the oxygen turns to a liquid at 297 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The energy required to accomplish that has always been considered a drawback to the technology. Babcock & Wilcox will do the engineering.[25]

According to author Jeff Biggers, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has claimed that FutureGen 2.0 will create more than 30,000 jobs in the next ten years, but admitted that the new FutureGen project will result in only 700 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs.[26]

Mattoon resists being test site for captured carbon

On August 11, 2010, the small Illinois town of Mattoon refused to provide land for FutureGen 2.0 to store its captured carbon, dealing a blow to the Obama administration's plan to fund a carbon-storage facility in the town as a substitute for providing $1 billion for the coal-fired power plant originally planned for the site. The 400-acre site in Mattoon was purchased in late 2008 by a development group for Coles County, IL and FutureGen Alliance for $7 million. The Energy Department is looking for other communities to stoare the carbon.[27]

Potential conflict of interest

James Wood, the deputy assistant secretary for "clean coal" at the U.S. Department of Energy, was president of North Carolina-based Babcock & Wilcox from 1996 to 2001, the company tapped by Wood's agency for FutureGen 2.0 in Meredosia. Documents show B&W could receive a share of more than $730 million for its role in the project, which had originally been focused on building a new power plant on a site in Mattoon. Oxy-combustion technology is a process B&W has been working on in recent years. Under terms of the FutureGen 2.0 announcement, the captured carbon waste from the oxy-combustion process will be piped more than 175 miles to Mattoon for underground storage.[28]

The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to requests for information about Wood's role in the changes. A Babcock & Wilcox spokesman at the company's Ohio-based power generation unit said the company had no comment.[28]

Illinois Communities Vie for FutureGen Contracts

It was announced in August 2010 that at least six communities in Illinois near the proposed FutureGen site would be applying for contracts, which would play a role in the development of of the facility. The communities of Marshall, Taylorville, Tuscola, Springfield and Decatur have all shown interest in the project and plan on applying to become part of the revamped FutureGen proposal. It is estimated that at least 75 jobs would be created, with a significant influx of federal stimulus dollars to communities awarded contracts to be part of FutureGen.[29]

Willow Grove Carbon Solutions applying for Fayette County to be host CO2 site

In October 2010, it was announced that Bloomington-based Willow Grove Carbon Solutions is looking to establish an underground storage site to capture carbon dioxide in Fayette County with hopes of it being selected as a FutureGen storage site, with some landowners already signing on for the venture. Willow Grove has located a site in Fayette County that will include a good portion of Loudon Township and small portions of Sefton and Avena Township, west of St. Elmo. The 23,000-acre site also will touch on a tiny portion of Moccasin Township in Effingham County. Martin Culik, senior manager for the project, said the site in Loudon Township will mirror the Loudon oil fields, but will not interfere with it. The company has also approached Fayette County Board and Vandalia city officials about the project.[30]

The geological formation of the area is what makes it an ideal site, according to Culik: the 1,300-foot thick Mount Simon sandstone, where the carbon will be injected into after it’s captured and piped to the site, has a top layer of shale that will supposedly seal and keep the gas from seeping above ground. Yet there is another unique feature of the Fayette location that will further keep it from emitting underground: “The sandstone formation is in the shape of an upside-down bowl and because it has edges all around, it will keep the carbon dioxide trapped in the area,” according to Culik. “It’s the primary reason we’re interested in that site.” Culik said the site will have minimal impact on farmland. Backers of the FutureGen project are taking site proposals at the end of the month from communities that would like to be considered as the host for a carbon dioxide storage site. FutureGen backers is expected to announce its selection early next year. In addition to the Fayette County site, the company is working on creating sites in Crawford and Lawrence counties, as well as throughout the U.S.[30]

Morgan County chosen as site for CO2 storage

On February 28, 2011, FutureGen Alliance announced Morgan County, Illinois, will house the $1.3 billion underground carbon dioxide storage facility, leaving three Illinois counties out of the running. The 30-year project will build upon an existing Ameren Energy Resources oil-fired power plant in Meredosia. An estimated 32-miles of pipeline will also be constructed to pump the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions into the 4,500-foot deep underground site located north of Interstate 72 and west of County Highway 123. FutureGen Alliance claims the site could permanently store more than 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.[31]

Ken Humphreys, FutureGen's chief executive officer, said the board of directors decided that Morgan County’s site had “the highest probability of success,” taking environmental, property rights issues and overall costs into consideration: “It is in very close proximity — in fact in the same county — as the Meredosia power plant. That simplifies pipeline right of way and routing issues. It also reduces the total project costs, substantially.”[31]

The state Department of Energy will need to complete an estimated 18-month federal environmental impact statement citing potential impacts and alternatives before full construction begins; although some construction is expected to begin summer 2011, major heavy construction on the power plant and storage site is not expected to begin until spring 2013.[31]

Illinois governor to vote on liability issues around CO2 storage

On June 1, 2011, legislation needed for three multibillion-dollar coal gasification projects to move forward in Illinois - FutureGen 2.0, Power Holdings Company plant and a proposed $3-billion Chicago plant at an abandoned steel site along the Calumet River by Leucadia - arrived at Governor Pat Quinn's desk after winning final approval in the General Assembly the night before. The FutureGen bill addresses the legal liability issue of storing CO2 underground in Morgan County as part of the $1.2 billion near-zero emissions project at Ameren Illinois' Meredosia Power Station also located in the county. Quinn must decide whether to sign or veto S.B. 2062, S.B. 1533 and S.B. 2169, relating to FutureGen 2.0, Leucadia and Power Holdings, respectively. Quinn has until late August 2011 to sign or veto the measures.[32]

Construction planned for 2013

In July 2012 the FutureGen Alliance said it expected to file plans for a 30-mile pipeline and seek a power sales agreement and a carbon-storage permit by the fall. The alliance plans to start construction of the $1.65 billion project in late 2013 and to begin carbon storage and power production in 2017, alliance CEO Ken Humphreys. The U.S. Department of Energy is analyzing preliminary design and geological data from a deep-well test to determine whether a site in northeast Morgan County can safely store millions of tons of carbon dioxide from a converted Ameren power plant near Meredosia, Illinois.[33]

Ameren pulls out

In November 2011, Ameren told its FutureGen partners that, because of its financial situation, it cannot take part as promised. The company had agreed to supply an old oil-fired power plant in Meredosia, Illinois for the plant, set to be shut down by the end of the year. A spokesman for Ameren declined to comment on whether it would play any role in the project. The NY Times reported that if "the project needed a deadline extension from Congress to hold on to the $1 billion in federal aid... it is not clear that it could get one in this fiscally weak environment. And experts on coal-fired emissions say that without government help, it is unlikely that the private sector will risk the money necessary for a first-of-a-kind engineering project."[34]

On November 15, 2011, Bloomberg said a number of recent reports suggested Ameren is looking to transfer the lead role in the project to the FutureGen Alliance, and that FutureGen is in talks to lease the shuttering Meredosia plant from Ameren.[35]

FutureGen Alliance Members

The DOE's private-sector partners on this project are[36]:

Project details

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Energy and 11 coal and energy companies
Location: Mattoon, Illinois
Capacity: 275 MW
Type: Experimental carbon-capture
Projected in service: 2012
Status: Preliminary development

Personnel

Contact Details

Website: http://www.futuregenalliance.org/

Financing

Citizen groups

SourceWatch resources

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External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "New Federal Funding Pushes Clean-Coal Project Ahead" Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2010.
  2. Tim Landis, "Morgan County FutureGen plans on track, CEO says," The State Journal-Register, July 11, 2012.
  3. "FutureGen Alliance Selects Mattoon, Illinois as the Final Site for the First-of-a-kind, Near-Zero Emissions Coal-fueled Power Plant", Media Release, December 18, 2007.
  4. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed December 2007.(This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  5. David Biello, "New Power Plant Aims to Help Coal Clean Up: A "clean coal" power plant is set to be built in Illinois in 2009; if it works, it could help avoid catastrophic global warming", Scientific American, December 19, 2007.
  6. "Statement Regarding FutureGen from DOE's Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy James Slutz", Media Release, December 18, 2007.
  7. "Energy Dept. Pulls Support for FutureGen", Associated Press, January 30, 2008.
  8. "DOE Takes Next Steps with Restructured FutureGen Approach: Announces Draft Solicitation for Multiple Commerical-Scale Clean Coal Plants with Sequestration", Media Release, May 7, 2008.
  9. "Energy Department says it will formally withdraw from FutureGen partnership", Associated Press, June 13, 2008.
  10. "FutureGen Alliance Will Continue to Fight to Keep FutureGen at Mattoon Moving Forward", Media Release, June 16, 2008.
  11. "Senate panel freezes funding for restructured FutureGen", E&E News PM, July 8, 2008. (Access to this article requires a trial subscription.)
  12. "Land acquisition completed for FutureGen plant," St. Louis Business Journal, December 12, 2008.
  13. "The Passing of FutureGen: How the World’s Premier Clean Coal Technology Project Came to be Abandoned by the Department of Energy," Report by the Majority Staff of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology to Chairman Bart Gordon and Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller, March 10, 2009
  14. Joseph Romm, "FutureGen was NeverGen from the Start," Gristmill, March 12, 2009
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 U.S. Department of Energy,"Secretary Chu Announces Agreement on FutureGen Project in Mattoon, IL: Paves Way for First US Commercial Scale Carbon Capture and Storage Project", Media Release, June 12, 2009.
  16. "Durbin Meets with FutureGen Alliance to Prepare for Next Congress", Media Release, November 20, 2008.
  17. "DOE Revives FutureGen, Reversing Bush-Era Decision," New York Times, June 12, 2009.
  18. "Stalled Clean Coal Plant Moving Ahead In Illinois," Associated Press, June 12, 2009.
  19. "Alliance Members", FutureGen Alliance, accessed June 2009.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Utility Wanted: Loss of Coal Giants Ups Pressure On FutureGen, DOE," Earth2Tech, June 26, 2009.
  21. Matthew L. Wald, "Two Utilities Are Leaving Clean Coal Initiative," New York Times, June 26, 2009.
  22. "AEP, Southern pull out of FutureGen project," Reuters, June 25, 2009.
  23. Australian government, "Part 2: Expense Measures (Continued): Resources, Energy and Tourism", Australian government budget papers, May 2010.
  24. "Expert: Feds should buy FutureGen’s power output" July 10, 2010.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Matthew Wald, "U.S. Changes Plan for Capturing Emissions From Coal" NY Times, August 5, 2010.
  26. Jeff Biggers, "'Clean Coal' Bottom Feeders: Chu Hands Out $1 Billion in Big Coal Welfare, Durbin Hands Out Cigars" HuffPo, August 6, 2010.
  27. "Illinois Town Backs Out of 'Clean Coal' Project" Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2010.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Kurt Erickson, "Conflict of interest in FutureGen changes?" Pantagraph.com, August 11, 2010.
  29. "FutureGen competition attracts 6 communities" Kurt Erikson, Quad City Times, August 16, 2010.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Cathy Thoele, "Ideal site located in Fayette County" Oct. 19, 2010.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 "Morgan County wins $1.3 billion FutureGen clean coal project" Illinois Statehouse News, Feb. 28, 2011.
  32. Sayeh Tavangar, "Illinois passes bills for 3 gasification projects" Platts Energy Weekly, June 2, 2011.
  33. Tim Landis, "Morgan County FutureGen plans on track, CEO says," The State Journal-Register, July 11, 2012.
  34. Matthew Wald, "Coal Project Hits Snag as a Partner Backs Off" NY Times, Nov. 10, 2011.
  35. Tim Landis, "FutureGen-Ameren relationship could be resolved soon" SJ-R.com, Nov. 15, 2011.
  36. "Alliance Members", accessed April 2008.

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