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DOE Officially Launches FutureGen: Integrated Hydrogen, Electric Power and Carbon Sequestration Initiative

FutureGen systems. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy has signed an agreement with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance to build FutureGen, a prototype coal-based plant intended to establish the technical feasibility, economic viability and broad acceptance of co-producing electricity and hydrogen from coal with essentially zero emissions, including carbon dioxide (sequestration).

The FutureGen plant will be sized to generate approximately 275 megawatts of electricity, which is roughly equivalent to a medium-size coal-fired power plant and sufficient to supply electricity to approximately 275,000 average U.S. households. Carbon dioxide sequestration will be in the range of 1 to 2 million metric tons annually.

The signing of the agreement marks the official kick-off for the Project. Over the next year, site selection, design activities, and environmental analyses will lay the groundwork for final project design, construction, and operation.

The FutureGen Industrial Alliance will contribute $250 million to the project. Current Alliance members are: American Electric Power (Columbus, Ohio); BHP Billiton (Melbourne, Australia); CONSOL Energy Inc. (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Foundation Coal (Linthicum Heights, Md.); China Huaneng Group (Beijing, China); Kennecott Energy (Gillette, Wyo.); Peabody Energy (St. Louis, Mo.); and Southern Company (Atlanta, Ga.).

The Industrial Alliance plans to issue a site selection solicitation in early 2006, to develop a short list of the most qualified candidate sites by mid-2006, and to make a final site selection in mid to late 2007.

FutureGen—which will begin operation around 2012—may represent one of the best opportunities for accelerating the development and adoption of low-emissions Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology.

Gasification converts the coal into a highly enriched hydrogen gas, which can be burned much more cleanly than directly burning the coal itself. Alternatively, the hydrogen can be used in a fuel cell to produce electricity, or fed to a refinery to help upgrade petroleum products.

In the future, the plant could also become a model hydrogen-production facility to fuel hydrogen-powered cars and trucks.

FutureGen will be designed to capture carbon dioxide and sequester it in deep underground geologic formations. The initial goal will be to capture 90% of the plant’s carbon dioxide, but capture of nearly 100% may be possible with more advanced technologies.

Once captured, the carbon dioxide will be injected as a compressed liquid-like fluid deep underground, perhaps into saline reservoirs thousands of feet below the surface of much of the United States.

It may also be injected into oil or gas reservoirs, or into unmineable coal seams, to enhance petroleum or coalbed methane recovery. The project will include an intensive measurement and monitoring effort to verify the efficacy of carbon sequestration.

The FutureGen Initiative was initially announced by President Bush in February 2003. The project is being funded through the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.



Jesse Jenkins

So its actually going to be built aye? About damn time ... oh wait, it still wont be done until 2012!

IGCC is NOT a particularly new technology that we need to wait for FutureGen to be built to start using it. Gasification is being used already in a number of coal-to-liquids plants being constructed all over the place. And Carbon Sequestration is also being demonstrated in a number of places and enhanced oil recovery with CO2 has been used by the oil industry for more than a decade (the only difference is the use of natural CO2 from resevoirs as opposed to man-made CO2).

Jesse Jenkins

That is, by the time FutureGen is built, we'll already be quite well versed in the components of 'clean coal'. FutureGen seems to be more of a stalling tactic than a demo project, used as an excuse to avoid actually constructing any in IGCC plants in the U.S. - i.e. "we can't commit to building IGCC plants instead of steam-fired coal plants because we need to wait for the results from the FutureGen project"... "this is still a developing technology, but FutureGen will tell us what we need to know" ... etc.).

That's crap in my opinion. We ought to ban any new steam-fired plants and mandate that if you want to use coal to generate electricity in any new plants, you've gotta gasify it. Then we ought to seriously look at imposing a carbon cap-and-trade system or tax to create a market incentive to sequester the CO2 emissions from these plants. Sequestration will never be done in any serious enough amount if there is no market incentive to do it.


"FutureGen... blah blah blah"

Yeah rite, destroy the earth now and we dont even need to think about future.

"Current Alliance members are..."

Whao so many, bet they wont come out anything new other than good old coal power energy.

Coal + Oxygen + Steam ----> H2(fuel) + CO2(injected into ground and forget about it)

Doesn't sound sustainable to me.


If this plant could generate 275 MWe and sequester just 1 MT of CO2 it would be a fantastic result. Another target should be an electricity price per kwh close to a traditional plant if it were carbon taxed say at Euro levels. The trouble is between now and 2012 we should be capturing several billion tons of coal generated CO2. If the project fails to meet even its modest targets we've wasted several years. And that's just what will happen in my opinion, I'd call it eMission Impossible.

Lance Funston

I'm not an engineer, but putting together the various components that a system like FutureGen requires is not trivial or inexpensive by any means.

Cap-and trade on CO2 combined with serious R&D incentives might drive them to market faster. The issue now is when the coal companies to feel that the pain of energy. permit costs and regulation start to outweigh the sunk cost in their existing capital stock in dirty equipment.

As the carbon offset market grows, sequestration will find an additional revenue stream that makes it worthwhile.

In the current political environment in the U.S. many perverse subsidies keep these antiquated coal fired technologies in play. The free-market and the will of state and local governments are the only forces left driving the push to carbon neutrality in the US.


Actually, if you read any of the business papers or magazines you will see that many large corporations are starting to tackle greenhouse emissions, including big coal power producers like Cinergy. They all believe that the US is on a path to mandating carbon limits after Bush is out of office. Some strats are already close to doing it.



That is all.

richard schumacher

Sequestering billions of tons of CO2 annually is not likely to be feasible. A more useful demonstration project would be an integrated fission plant producing electricity, hydrogen, and potable water. (Making liquid fuel for vehicles from H2 and CO2 taken from the air is expensive but it releases no fossil carbon. In the medium term, a few decades out, this will be needed for aircraft at least.)


No the fact is the companies have been moving toward this all along with bush's help.
These sorts of things were the goal all along to ue tech to solve the problems.

Bush just uses tech and money to go as far as we manage to go while the other side just uses taxes and penalties and set deadlines grabbed from thier asses at random.

They have been working long enough now that real workable solutions have come along.


It seems that people forget that economics is what will ultimatley drive clean tehcnology and innovation, not necesarily government mandating, though we do need a national strategy for reducing oil dependence. Companies are fighting emissions now becuase if they dont, it will be more costly in the long run.

"Companies are moving swiftly to prepare for ''a profoundly altered world" of lower greenhouse emissions. And they are doing it -- as Romney first suggested -- because it is good business. ''If we stonewall this thing to five years out, all of a sudden the cost to us and ultimately our consumers can be gigantic," Cinergy Corp. chief executive James E. Rogers told Business Week."


Ban all new coal fired plants unless they can sequester the CO2. In the mean time, the U.S. should commit to Kyoto and beyond. Technology without incentives or penalties doesn't get you anywhere if the new process is more expensive than the old process. Even if not true, companies generally don't want to get out of their comfort zone.

I still wonder, however, about using this technology to enhance production of yet more fossil fuels. If this is done, we cancel out the carbon savings.


If you ban all non-sequestered coal plants, you're going to force people to buy gas or oil for several years.


Bush's coal thingy has been spending alot of money on the tricky tech needed to convert old coal to new. The results are rather encouraging so far and with luck we can manage to convert the entire coal power indutry to cleaner methods within 10 years. Not only that but help convert china and indias coal powerplants as well.

Now THAT is big.


Note that China Huaneng Group (Beijing, China) is part of the FutureGen Alliance...


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