Controversial FutureGen Gets Second Chance

by | Jun 14, 2009

futuregen-image2FutureGen, a carbon capture and sequestration project that was abandoned by the Bush Administration, is getting a second chance to prove its technology.

The Department of Energy may put about $1 billion into the public-private partnership, which plans to build a coal-fired power plant in Illinois that buries its carbon emissions deep underground, reports the New York Times.

The FutureGen Alliance is a consortium of major utilities, including American Electric Power Co. Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. The new plant would use a process known as integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology, coupled with greenhouse gas emission controls, to provide a new blueprint for coal-fired electricity.

The new agreement between DOE and FutureGen does not guarantee an outcome. Rather, the first step is for FutureGen and the feds to come up with a plan to prove the feasibility. After that, initial steps would include:

  • restarting design work
  • updating the cost estimate
  • expansion of the private sponsorship group
  • devising a new analysis of underground regions suitable for sequestering emissions.

The coal industry, which has been pushing a “clean coal” marketing and public relations message, is hopeful for a solution, such as carbon capture and sequestration, that would allow it to continue adding power plants.

The Bush Administration had dismissed the FutureGen project in January 2008 after finding that costs had risen to $1.8 billion, up from $950 million. Later, it was revealed that a math error resulted in an overstatement of the cost increase. Instead, costs had risen to $1.3 billion, reports the New York Times.

Even as of June last year, the Department of Energy was considering keeping its investment in FutureGen, but later the Bush Administration decided against it.

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