The US Department of Energy (DOE) is restructuring its commitment and approach to the planned $1.5-billion FutureGen project, which would have resulted in the construction and operation of a prototype 275 MW plant that would co-produce electricity and hydrogen from coal with essentially zero emissions, including carbon dioxide emissions, which would be captured and sequestered. (Earlier post.)
The restructured approach will focus on separating carbon dioxide for CCS in multiple future IGCC plants. DOE will support industry in building IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) plants by providing funding for the addition of CCS technology to multiple plants. The new approach does not include support for hydrogen production.
This approach, said Bodman, builds on technological research and development advancements in IGCC and CCS technology achieved over the past five years and is expected to at least double the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered compared to the FutureGen concept originally announced in 2003. It also reduces the financial commitment from the federal government.
Under the new plan, DOE’s investment would provide funding for no more than the CCS component of the power plant—not the entire plant construction, compared with the original FutureGen concept in which the federal government would incur 74% of rising costs. This would allow for commercial operation of IGCC power plants equipped with CCS technology to begin as soon as the plants are commissioned, between 2015 and 2016.
This restructured FutureGen approach is an all-around better investment for Americans. As technological advancements have been realized in the last five years, we are eager to demonstrate CCS technology on commercial plants that when operational, will be the cleanest coal-fired plants in the world. Each of these plants will sequester at least one million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and help meet our nation’s rapidly growing energy demand.—Secretary Bodman
Concurrent with the announcement, the DOE issued a Request for Information (RFI) that seeks industry’s input by 3 March 2008, on the costs and feasibility associated with building clean coal facilities that achieve the intended goals of FutureGen.
Following this period and consideration of industry comment, DOE intends to issue a competitive solicitation to provide federal funding under cooperative agreements to equip IGCC (or other clean coal technology) commercial power plants that generate at least 300 MW, with CCS technology aimed at accelerating near-term technology deployment. Initial input from industry will assist in determining how many demonstrations can be commissioned.
The four sites—two in Illinois and two in Texas—evaluated in the Department’s Environmental Impact Statement issued in November 2007, including the site announced by the FutureGen Alliance in December 2007, Mattoon, IL, may be eligible to host a commercial-scale IGCC plant with CCS technology, according to the DOE. The site analysis and characterization data at these sites may be applicable to future environmental analyses under this restructured approach.
More than one site may be selected as a host for the commercial demonstration of CCS technology and DOE encourages applicants to include these four sites in their consideration for this restructured approach. Also, the FutureGen Alliance’s 13 member companies may compete with all the other applicants.
The official DOE announcement on FutureGen caps weeks of speculation on the future of the program that began following the failure of the DOE to immediately approve the site in Mattoon, Illinois selected by the FutureGen Industrial Alliance as the site to host the FutureGen power plant. (Earlier post.)
The FutureGen Alliance issued a statement in response to the restructuring, saying that it is committed to keeping the original project moving ahead at Mattoon.
Carbon capture and sequestration is an important technology, but it must be integrated with advanced power plant technology so that we understand the full system cost, performance and operating strategies.
FutureGen can deliver the needed technology with urgency. It will take four to five years for DOE to evaluate new proposals, place contracts, and conduct environmental reviews for new projects. FutureGen has crossed these hurdles and is positioned for success.
The Alliance remains committed to keeping FutureGen on track. We owe it to the people of Illinois, to the Alliance members who have contributed significant funds and resources to bring the project to this stage and to society which depends on technology to provide clean, affordable and secure energy.
The FutureGen Alliance is a non-profit organization representing some of the world's largest coal companies and electric utilities including: American Electric Power, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, the China Huaneng Group, CONSOL Energy Inc., E.ON U.S., Foundation Coal, Luminant, PPL Corporation, Rio Tinto Energy America, Peabody Energy, Southern Company, and Xstrata Coal.
Secretary Bodman also announced President Bush’s budget request of $648 million for the DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s advanced coal technology research, development and demonstration program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. The FY09 budget requests $407 million for coal research—including development of more efficient gasification and turbine technologies, innovations for existing coal power plants, and large-scale CCS injection tests—and $241 million to demonstrate technologies for cost-effective carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power plants, including $156 million for the restructured FutureGen approach and $85 million for DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative.
This $648 million request represents a $129 million increase from the President’s FY2008 request and is the largest amount requested for DOE’s coal program in more than 25 years.