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DOE Restructures Its Approach to FutureGen

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.



Say what you will, FutureGen is a good start. Sure for the time being it's expensive, but who would have guessed that zero emissions coal could be real. This is a positive step forward in that more plants will come online with this technology. Successfull implimetation of these designs on a large scale WILL make a difference. I costs alot to get going, but now its starting to look like a clear future.

This is a brave design!


Please correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the term sequester a euphemism for store? Aren't they talking about storing vast amounts of CO2? Am I missing something here or is the idea of storing CO2 similar to what we are current doing at nuclear power plants where they are sequestering radioactive materials? Are we producing another huge amount of undesirable byproducts that will require tax money later on to clean up? When will our government become just a little bit proactive and address the entire problem up front? Industries have been do this far too long. They should not only address sequestering CO2 but also how to get rid of it without it leaking into the atmosphere.


June 2006 Fact Sheet (NRDC)

"Coal gasification with carbon capture and disposal (CCD) technologies -- which corral carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and pump it into natural geologic structures deep in the Earth -- are an important part of mitigating the damage done by burning coal."


Stan Peterson

Isn't it nice when they put the adults in charge, in stead of the juvenile true believers.

DOE has changed this program from a pure boondoggle, par excellance, to a realistic implementation of CCS sequestering, while meanwhile pushing IGCC technology and reducing IGCC costs.

IGCC technology is still new, and the research for it has to be amortized, to drive the competitive costs of IGCC down versus less efficient coal alternatives.

Getting several more IGCC plants built and into operation will do just that. At the same time DOE will be able to actually test realistic, operational, full scale, CCS technologies, not some paper studies or minuscule demonstration plant experiments.

IGCC is the the "cleanest" clean coal technology that has actually been developed, tested, and is in operation at several utilities. Coal is gasified, cleaned before it is burned, and the compound gas turbine ans steam turbines get the most electricity for the least coal of any coal based plant. Meanwhile they are the least polluting even without Carbon sequestering.

That CCS add-on to the technology can stand on its own; and can be added as needed then or later. (Or not added, when the future Science proves it is unneeded.)

Another benefit is that the thermal efficiency of IGCC plants is ht highest of all the commercial generation facilities. The less the waste the better off you are in the long run as there is less "waste" that you may have to re-mediate.

Thsi rates a Hoorah!


That is one expensive coal plant.

Frankly some form of sequestering will probably be needed but I'm not too sure about the viability of this solution. It isn't a retrofit for what's out there but a ground up solution. It doesn't address the large number of coal plants already in place or what to do with them during their 40 year lifespan. I doubt any utility will end a power plant before its time is up without major intervention.

Would like to know what the differences from a IGCC does to the cost. A conventional plant with a scrubber is only 34% efficient. IGCC is supposed to jack that up to 42% but the costs obviously go up especially with sequestering.

How variable are these coal plants? Are they load following or peaking or are they base units (most likely). Given the LCOE of coal is $53.10 MWhr and wind is only $55.80, are the costs justified? Can we displace more coal with cleaner tech? Given the availibility of coal and the limitations of the systems in place, we will need some coal tech, unfortunately, and this is a solution of sorts.

I've got to love the fact though they call it non-profit. Right. It just touches the very cynical part of me that these guys pour their money into old tech to keep it going.


Andy hit the nail on the head. CCS is a poor and dangerous excuse to burn coal. If they can't come up with a way to consume the carbon in a useful or at least inert parallel process...don't just store underground for the next geological disruption to puke it into the atmosphere in a catastrophic fart.



Are these the same "adults" that racked up $3 trillion in debt during the Republican Congress and Administration and got us into a war in Iraq based on lies?


I've read that the gold medal for efficiency actually belongs to the ultrasupercritical steam plants and not IGCC, though I've not stumbled across any firm data in this regard and I'm somewhat skeptical myself.


I usually disagree with Stan. But this is a good move.

Coal is here. Screaming about it won't stop the use. I detest it - we used it at home when I was a boy.

Learning how to best reduce the damage coal does is worth a few billion. It would be very nice if we knew what will work well, what it will cost, and what will not work. But we don't. And these operations are the only way to find out.

Disagreement with the "adults" about Iraq and such doesn't mean every decision at DOE must be wrong. But Stan did take a shot at the "believers" first.


I'm not sure this isn't a massive bait and switch exercise. It seems all the the coal plants have to do initially is prove they can capture some CO2 if they wanted to. Unless I read it wrong they don't have to continuously pump it under high pressure to a reservoir. It's a bit like saying an experimental plane can fly because the wings are shiny.

Also if I recall FutureGen was supposed to capture 80% of CO2. That's now apparently 160%. My prediction is that CCS will not work for the vast majority of practical sites for new or old power plants near coal basins. Expect to be disappointed.


IGCC technology has been in the test stage for over 20 years.

Pressurized Fluid bed systems get efficiencies similar to IGCC in the 40-45% thermal efficiency range already. A 360 and 250 MWe units are in place in Japan. The 250 MWe unit has been in operation since 2000. The 360 MWe unit (2001) uses supercritical steam at Karita and is supposedly the higher thermal efficiency plant (42.5%).


Stan is himself a true believer. Too bad it's in the worst of things - himself and his biased opinions. There is no fool like a sure fool.

Paul F. Dietz

It's not clear to me that this new plan excludes CCS retrofits for existing coal plants. The chilled ammonia process retrofitted to these plants may be one of the cheaper ways to capture CO2 from coal combustion, as may oxyfuel retrofits if the cost of O2 separation from air can be further reduced.


Much of any additional costs for IGCC and CCS can be recovered with EOR (of course that defeats the purpose of the CCS as far as carbon goes)

richard schumacher

Calculating from the observed rate of increase of atmospheric CO2 indicates that if we continue to use fossil fuels as we are today, mitigating AGW through carbon sequestration would require capturing and transporting more than one thousand cubic miles of CO2 every year and storing it forever. This is impossible.

The sooner we give up the illusion of "clean coal" the sooner we will get serious about non-fossil energy sources.

Tom Street

Sorry to add to the noise, but continuing to fund these demonstration projects while doing nothing to actually require CS is just a way to delay as long as possible what needs to be done. This suits the coal companies and the utilities and is a cheap way to bide their time while the people believe in the illusion that we will able to have truly clean coal.

We have seen this movie before and we have as evidence decades of delay in actually cleaning up coal plants. The coal companies are ruthless and will buy off or help destroy any politician who would actually suggest these we cut back on coal or prohibit any coal expansion that doesn't sequester these co2 emissions.

The utilities and coal companies should be enforced to price in their externalities, those environmental and health costs that are not captured by the market price. Under this scenario, they will either learn to limit their emissions or they will be replaced by alternative sources of energy.

And btw, coal sequestration does nothing to stop the horrific damage that is being done to the mountains, valley, streams, and people of place like West Virginia.
Coal is the killer and will always be such as long as these corporations rule our political landscape.


Something a lot of people ignore, is that CO2 is a much bigger molecule than plain Carbon.

__Molar Weight of C: 12.01kg
Molar Weight of CO2: 44.01kg
Over 3.5x as big

This is why cars are able to spew out their own weight in CO2 every year.


This of course has storage implications as well.

    According to MIT’s 2007 “Future of Coal” study, capturing and compressing just 60 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by U.S. coal-fired power plants would demand a new pipeline network big enough to move 20 million barrels of liquefied carbon dioxide each day from power plants to suitable sequestration sites (which depend on particular geology)—a volume equal to all the oil piped daily throughout the country. Sequestration sites would have to be honestly administered, closely monitored, and tightly sealed. Such demanding technical requirements led journalist Jeff Goodell to write that “the notion of coal as the solution to America’s energy problems is a technological fantasy” www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/506


As mentioned by other previous posters, Sequestration is just a pretense to build more and continue operating conventional coal plants, without any sort of regulatory interference.

In that respect, it's far better to crush all hope, with the harsh reality, than it is to let the lie continue.

That way we can seriously start moving on to more realistic solutions like industrial scale renewables, and large scale grid/powerplant efficiency programs.



The other side of that is that the distance between CO2 production and sequestration would be much smaller on average than the distance from crude production/import, to refining, to the terminal.


Well then, the other thing to consider "On the flipside" is that CO2 is not a liquid unless it's at high pressure, or very low temperature.

This makes it so that the energy and associated capital required is far more intense moving that cryogenic pressurized liquid around.

The oil distribution system was developed over decades, with hundreds of billions of investment (Trillions?), moving valuable product around. Carbon capture on the other hand would be moving a liability around, which doesn't make any money to pay for itself.

Even if the cost of carbon sequestration were cheap (Which it's not), and it were fully compatible with existing power plants (Which it's not). The sheer cost of the distribution infrastructure alone would be enourmous.


End of the day, the real bottom line is that SolarThermal/GeoThermal/Efficiency look rather inexpensive when compared to Sequestration. (Around $6500/KW)

Meanwhile these renewables are competing with the cost of fully amortized existing coal plants which don't follow the new clean air law regs. (Closer to the $2000-$3000 range)

tom deplume

We could replace all fossil fuel use with 60,000 sq mi of algae oil farms. That's less than 138 sq mi per congressional district if we would spread them around on a per capita basis.


==We could replace all fossil fuel use with 60,000 sq mi of algae oil farms.==

Says who?

Stan Peterson


You quote the 40 year life of a coal plant. Thanks to having little relevant alternatives, the average age of coal plants in the US, almost exceeds that as most are super-annuated already.

The myriad nuclear plants that were canceled, but were originally slated to come on line in the 70s, 80s, and 90s were meant to replace and augment these ancient pollution spewing monstrosities.

I am proud of the work I did in helping stopping the worst of those; which were accidents waiting to happen. But instead of stopping the ill conceived ones, the demagogues joined in, and all were stopped, both the good ones and the bad.

Instead the old coal plants had to be kept alive and generating because the juveniles with their wind and solar dreams, but no actuals or practical alternatives, left no choice to the Utility managements.

Thank You.

IGCC is not my first preference for a prime power source. But of the coal alternatives, it seems from an engineer's perspective to be the best, intrinsically.

An Engineer would want to 1) Obtain the maximal thermal efficiency; 2) Clean up the pollution before you burn it; as that is is simpler to do, realistically. 3) Ssequestering a gas like CO2, is easier too, should you believe that it is necessary; as many of you do believe, currently.

I was criticizing the Republican true-believers that dreamed up FutureGen. Working in conjunction with the Democrat dopes, of course. Idiots are wherever you find them.

If you think that the Trade Towers are a myth that never existed, and a lie, I feel sorry for the reality that you think you inhabit. More people died that day than did at Pearl Harbor; and they were innocent US civilians and not military, including a few friends and acquaintances. WWII would cost about $65 trillion today and we spent it's equivalent beating Germany and Japan.

Unlike juvenile dreamers for power systems that don't scale; or absurdities like algal farms that ONLY consume a MERE 60,000 square miles, the Utilities by law are obligated to produce power as part of their charter to do business. If you must burn coal, IGCC or fluidized bed are the only true modern alternatives. Ultra supercritical steam is just too corrosive of steam plant components to be realistic, IMHO.

I base that on the experience of the US Navy. If the US Navy couldn't make it work, and obsoleted an entire fleet of vessels, with all their resources, who am I to argue with them. (The predecessors to the Perry class frigates, were scrapped after less than half of their planned years operations, some only a few years old because of unreliable supercritical steam plants.)

As for solar or algal farms that would need to consume significant portions of the USA, it pure dreamy fantasy. That's a requisite area of the size of most of Nevada, Arizona and most of New Mexico put together.

Such proposed installations would never get to first base on an application for an Environmental Impact Statement. Just imagine actually proposing that you are going to drown (via algal farms) or barbecue (via solar farms) all the life and species of the States of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico put together, and drive to extinction, 10,000 or 100,000 or perhaps 1,000,000 or more species.

NO Problem. Your EIS approval is a mere formality. Riiigghhtt!


Note to self: stop reading Stans drivel.


You quote the 40 year life of a coal plant. Thanks to having little relevant alternatives, the average age of coal plants in the US, almost exceeds that as most are super-annuated already.

40 years is the lower end, 50 years is the upper end but in either case, what do you think has been built as baseload generation in the last decade or so? Although new plants haven't been hugely built, there is nothing stopping anyone from upgrading plants like they have done to the US nuclear fleet.

According to the DOE, 153 coal plants will be built by 2030 in the US representing 93 GW. China alone is expected to add over 560 coal plants by 2014 (in a 2006 article)


Frankly your belief in nuclear plants being built in the 70's defies the logic of the times. They were massively delayed and even when they weren't they had the worst capacity factors, exacerbating costs. Even today an EIA paper put the LCOE of nuclear at $59.30/MWh compared to wind power at $55.80. In the late 70's and 80's, energy demand increases sharply decreased, further halting plans for multi-billion dollar energy projects.

Scalable? You must be kidding. Wind and solar are a heck more scalable than conventional/nuclear. They are by nature modular. No one accident/damage done to one of the modules would knock out the whole thing. The modules are relatively cheap and easy to add to the system. Large base capacity units like these coal or nuclear units takes years to put up and are done so in large increments. Economic slowdowns like the late 70's and 80's would mean multi-billion dollar capital liability whose payments wouldn't be offset by demand crippled by the economic slowdown. It's one reason why many utilites jump on conservation. Capital investments are inherintly dangerous.

As for solar or algal farms that would need to consume significant portions of the USA, it pure dreamy fantasy. That's a requisite area of the size of most of Nevada, Arizona and most of New Mexico put together.

Ah yes, trying to use reductio ad absurdum. But your statement doesn't make sense in the first place. Nevada is over 110000 square miles. With present technology (not that I'm suggesting doing it), it would only take 10000 square miles of solar panels to equal the US usage of electricity. Only a tenth of Nevada, not your most of 3 states, but then you aren't interested in facts, just spouting.

Stan, what's juvenile is acting the way you do. Wordwide energy consumption in 2004 was 0.471 ZJ in 2004. In one year, the sun puts out tremendous amounts of energy, 3850 ZJ reach the earth's surface which gets turned into 6ZJ of wind power, 1.8 ZJ of biomass, and 285 ZJ gets absorbed into the oceans. All the oil, gas and coal that we use is stored from billions of years of this. It is far better that we exploit the renewable energy that we can economically exploit (which we can) than calling it juvenile and dismissing it.


"Coal is the killer and will always be such as long as these corporations rule our political landscape."

Isn't that a little like saying cars kill people rather than people driving cars?

And the FutureGen project has been funded til now primarily by government DOE money (74%). Since the alternatives are not yet ready and we need new power sources - it looks pretty well like clean coal is a necessary step. If as Stan believes, CO2 turns out to have been wrongly accused of AGW, then it can be safely released pushing its percentage of atmosphere toward a humbling .04% from .0378%.


@ Stan:

With respect to your comment on the Trade Towers, 2749 including many members of FDNY and NYPD were killed that day. Final total deaths a Pearl Harbor - 2390. I doubt anyone believes that event to be a myth. Some, however have different views of what happened and who was responsible. Some, that is, of us who were there.

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