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FutureGen Plant to Be Sited in Mattoon, Illinois

Overview of technologies and process for the FutureGen coal plant. Click to enlarge.

The FutureGen Alliance has selected Mattoon, Illinois as the site to host the FutureGen power plant. FutureGen is a prototype coal-based plant intended to establish the technical feasibility and economic viability of co-producing electricity and hydrogen from coal with essentially zero emissions, including carbon dioxide (via capture and sequestration). (Earlier post.)

The $1.2-billion (2006 dollars) FutureGen plant will be nominally rated at 275 MWe—roughly equivalent to a medium-size coal-fired power plant and sufficient to supply electricity to approximately 275,000 average US households. Carbon dioxide sequestration will be in the range of 1 to 2 million metric tons annually.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has established the following near-zero emissions goals for the gasification and power generation components of the facility:

  • Greater than 99% sulfur removal;

  • Greater than 90% mercury removal,

  • Less than .05 pounds of nitrogen oxide per million BTU; and

  • Less than .005 pounds of particulate matter per million BTU.

In addition, the goal is to capture and sequester 90% of the CO2 produced at the power plant.

The basic concept is to use a gasifier to convert coal into syngas consisting mostly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is reacted with steam (water gas shift) to produce additional hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

The carbon dioxide will be separated from the hydrogen and permanently stored in deep geologic formations. The hydrogen will power a combustion turbine that will generate electricity; steam heated by the combustion turbine exhaust drives a second turbine to generate additional electricity. This dual-turbine system is an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle approach, but using hydrogen rather than directly burning the syngas as proposed in other coal IGCC systems.

Depending on the final technologies selected, FutureGen will produce either slag or ash from the non-combustible portion of the coal and a sulfur byproduct from captured hydrogen sulfide. Each of these byproducts may have commercial value depending on local market conditions. Additionally, the hydrogen used to produce electricity could also be used to power fuel cell vehicles of the future or as a feedstock for other industries.

Mattoon was one of four finalists for the site. The others were Tuscola, Illinois; Brazos, Texas; and Odessa, Texas.

The FutureGen Alliance represents some of the world’s largest coal companies and electric utilities including: American Electric Power Service Corporation; Anglo American Services (UK) Limited; BHP Billiton Energy Coal, Inc.; China Huaneng Group; CONSOL Energy Inc.; E.ON U.S. LLC; Foundation Coal Corporation; Luminant, a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings (EFH); PPL Energy Services Group, LLC; Peabody Energy Corporation; Rio Tinto Energy America Services; Southern Company Services, Inc.; and Xstrata Coal Pty Limited. The Alliance is partnering with the US Department of Energy to design and build the facility.




I'll bet the CO2 winds up being used for EOR.


Better than old-coal, but still a very expensive way to produce some electricity, and still producing millions of tons of pollution.
A windpark in the northsea will produce 300MW at a smaller cost (800 milion euro). The initial cost for this coal-plant is even higher than the initial cost of the windpark, while the windpark will not need daily deliveries of fuel and will produce almost free electricity for at least 25 years.

If they would use biomass while sequestering the CO2, it would make more sense, but it would still be more expensive than next-generation windpower. (Though the net-capturing and sequestering of CO2 would make it worth it) It's good to develop this kind of technology for large-scale production of chemicals out of biomass, but it is still an archaic way of producing electricity

Also, the footprint of the coal-plant will be a highly polluted wasteland around the plant and around the coalmines. The footprint around the windturbines will be breeding grounds for fish and mass-cultivation of mussels.

And there's plenty of place left...

tom deplume

$4.36 per watt of nameplate capacity. Wonder what operating costs will be?


275,000,000W / $1,200,000= $4.36/W + fuel. Sweet.

Solar thermal is cheaper than that.


Its just a testing plant and as such it doesnt matter if it ever breaks even.

The real moola will flow after they use this plant to test ways to enhance and cost reduce and streamline and all. Also because coal itself is cheap a plant like this can nab a fair profit.

Jim G.

Funny. Coal's big problems arise because we mine material from deep in the earth and put it into our air, water and selves rather than leave it in place.

So to solve this problem, we do it in reverse. Please correct me if I got this wrong: in this case, we pull water from the Earth's surface, and then shove some part of it (here, oxygen), deep into the earth forever. Likewise, in sequestration schemes, we pull air from the atmosphere into a burner, and then take the nitrogen and carbon oxides and shove them down into the earth forever.

This seems like the best it gets for coal. It's definitely an improvement over just dumping it wholesale into the air. But how far do we go before it becomes another ecological problem? More reason, in my mind, for wind, wave and solar. Harvest the energy available at the surface, and reduce the need to mine for everything.


So if electricity pays back at 7 cents per kilowatt, neglecting fuel and operating costs, the plant would be amortized in 8 years.

By the way, who is going to go out to blow at those windmills on calm days with less than 15 mph winds?

Interest for me is that the Mattoon site is 5 miles south of my gr gr grandfathers farm.

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