DoE puts backing behind FutureGen

THE US Department of Energy has released its final environmental study of the planned $US1.65 billion FutureGen 2.0 near-zero emissions coal-fired power facility in Illinois, backing the project for its potential role in helping to diversify the nation’s energy sources long-term.

Donna Schmidt

The agency said late last week the Meredosia complex, planned by the FutureGen Alliance and using $US1 billion in federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of its push, would help the US meet that goal without significant environmental impacts.

“The development of carbon capture and storage technologies through FutureGen 2.0 would demonstrate a viable path forward for the ongoing and future use of the nation's abundant coal reserves that address both aging infrastructure and environmental challenges,” the report said.

“DOE considered the advancement of carbon capture and storage technology critically important to addressing CO2 emissions and global climate change concerns associated with coal-fueled energy.”

A final recommendation is still pending, but local media including the State Journal Register said that announcement should come by year-end.

If the project moves forward, it is expected to come online and produce first power in 2017.

It is currently in the preconstruction and design phase. If it comes to fruition the 168-megawatt plant will capture more than 90% of carbon dioxide emissions and pipe them to an underground storage site in Morgan County, Illinois, about 30 miles away.

FutureGen will be the first project worldwide to use oxy-combustion technology on a large scale.

The process involves burning coal using purified oxygen to produce a clean carbon dioxide emissions stream that is easier to capture than the diluted carbon dioxide that comes from traditional coal burning.

The initial FutureGen project was first announced to the public by the Bush Administration in 2003. It was shelved in 2008 after losing DOE support, becoming increasingly expensive and, in the opinion of some, succumbing to political pressure.

The reimagined FutureGen 2.0 project was unveiled in 2010.

Full front-end engineering and design work for the project began in October, according to Babcock and Wilcox Power Generation Group, which said it signed a deal with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance to kick off the second of three phases of work.

“This agreement is an important next step in our progress toward making near-zero-emissions power generation from coal a reality,” B&W president and chief operating officer J Randall Data said at the time.

“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, the DOE and the project team in demonstrating the value of carbon-capture technology.”

The US Department of Energy approved funding of up to $US49 million for the FEED work.

Coal for FutureGen will be mined primarily within the state, from Arch Coal’s Viper mine in Sangamon County and Coalfield Transport’s Shay 1 Mine and Tri-County Coal’s Crown III Mine, both in Macoupin County.