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DOE Revives US FutureGen Project

US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced an agreement with the FutureGen Alliance that advances the construction of the FutureGen plant: a 275 MW prototype that would co-produce electricity and hydrogen from coal with essentially zero emissions, including carbon dioxide emissions, which would be captured and sequestered. In 2008, the DOE under the Bush Administration had pulled the plug on the large-scale $1.5-billion project, due to costs. (Earlier post.)

The FutureGen project holds great promise as a flagship facility to demonstrate carbon capture and storage at commercial scale. Developing this technology is critically important for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US and around the world.

—Secretary Chu

The Department of Energy’s total anticipated financial contribution for the project is $1.073 billion, $1 billion of which comes from Recovery Act funds for CCS research. The FutureGen Alliance’s total anticipated financial contribution is $400 million to $600 million, based on a goal of 20 member companies each contributing a total of $20 million to $30 million over a four to six year period.

The Alliance, with support from DOE, will pursue options to raise additional non-federal funds needed to build and operate the facility, including options for capturing the value of the facility that will remain after conclusion of the research project, potentially through an auction of the residual interests in the late fall.

Under the terms of the provisional agreement between the Department of Energy and the FutureGen Alliance, the Department will issue a Record of Decision on the project by the middle of July, with the following activities to be pursued from the end of July 2009 through early 2010:

  • Rapid restart of preliminary design activities.
  • Completion of a site-specific preliminary design and updated cost estimate.
  • Expansion of the Alliance sponsorship group.
  • Development of a complete funding plan.
  • Potential additional subsurface characterization.

Following the completion of the detailed cost estimate and fundraising activities, the Department of Energy and the FutureGen Alliance will make a decision either to move forward or to discontinue the project early in 2010. Both parties agree that a decision to move forward is the preferred outcome and plan to reach a revised cooperative agreement that will include a funding plan for the full project. Funding will be phased and conditioned based on completion of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review.

Comments

curtis

The only reason we're wasting money on this is because of at least one facility is going to be in IL. More nonrenewable resources used and creating a lot of waste products that have to be stored somewhere. How are they going to get the coal out of the ground? Usually mines or big holes that ruin the land. Where's the GREEN promises? Where's the hydrogen research that was promised? Just another politician saying whatever it takes to get elected and then here comes the pork and everyone forgets about the promises. Chu is terrible for this position too.

SJC

IMO, Chu is FAR more qualified than the flacks that the previous administration had in there, but he is NOT a politician. He speaks his mind about white roofs reflecting heat and the right wing pounces on it like that is all he has.

On to this article, we have 600 coal fired power plants and coal will be making electricity for quite a while. The transition away from coal will take a while, because we have been at it for 100 years. We will be using less coal and using it more wisely and this is one way.

sulleny

The extra cost of the CCS process will drive this project into the ground and stall more FutureGens. DOE needs to get real and dump the CCS, scrub the stack and spend more on biomass -> syngas for use by Residential Power Units. Or, show us evidence as to WHY CCS is needed at this cost.

Mannstein

Get rid of coal, get rid of nuclear, get rid of hydro, get rid of wind, get rid of natural gas, get rid of oil, all for environmental reasons and what is left? People freezing in the dark.

Incidentally not all coal needs to be mined. In many situations it can be turned into synfuel in situ. The Aussies are doing it.

Chu is far more competent than some of the commentators on this blog.

ejj

Barack Obama says in those clean coal commercials that if we can put a man on the moon, we can figure out a way to burn coal in a clean way. So why be against it it Obama says it's okay? Give coal a chance...we have vast amounts of it here, and these kinds of power plants will potentially create many blue collar and white collar jobs. Energy independence for America!

SJC

We have over 200 years of coal left. If you put a 4kw PV system on all 50 million houses in the U.S. you would not have even replaced 10% of the 600 one gigawatt coal plants in the U.S. I know some want to play pretend games, but adults face the facts and deal with them.

Roger Pham

Thanks, SJC, for putting the numbers in perspective.

This calls for much greater conservation of electricity than current practice. A trip to department stores and shopping malls and offices will reveal that there is way too much lighting than necessary. Finding a way to replace some of these lights with fiber-optic cables conducting sun light from the roof, or simply skylights like in some Super Walmarts in my area, can make a lot of different. Homes nowaday has way too much windows that makes for very poor insulation. AC system is nowhere optimized for maximum efficiency.

In short, investing in "Negawatts" (instead of Megawatts") will provide much greater dividends and will save the planet. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

CCS is more like a gimmick and an excuse to maintaining the unsustainable status quo while draining our debt-ridden budget of billions! Not much different than re-arranging chairs in the Titanic.

Reel$$

@Roger:

Sure there is a need to conserve - this happens in part by market force as consumers will choose the more efficient appliance simply because it costs them less to operate.

"Homes nowaday has way too much windows that makes for very poor insulation."

I disagree. LEEDS gold and platinum standards allow for plenty of glass - albeit that with laminated thermopane-type vacuum or argon. The "Blue Heaven" building in Frankfurt is all glass:

"The glass façade made of ipasol blue 40/23 provides for a low total energy transmittance (24%) and effective thermal insulation (Ug-value 1.2) at a relatively high light transmittance (40%). The finely tuned light and radiation values of the solar control glazing improve the working and living atmosphere inside the hotel. The glazing improves the building's energy balance: Less cooling is required during the summer months and at the same time the large amount of glass has a positive impact on the need for artificial light."

The retreat to dark, tiny windowed buildings demonstrates appalling bad aesthetics and architectural sense. Those fearing the light also fear transparency, openness and free thought.

Roger Pham

Thanks, Reel$$ for the info. I'm afraid that most medium-priced homes will not have such an advanced glass technology, and will suffer from high rates of heat transfer. How do I know? By looking at the thermal signatures (InfraRed) of most homes at night...The window areas show the most heat loss/gain.

sulleny

Roger, the solution is better glass. Elegant structures start with the aesthetic - then with materials engineering.

Suggesting that people move into heavy lidded, windowless town homes no matter how energy efficient, will result in further rejection of green initiatives. These habitats are fine for mechanical people - not for human beings.

Roger Pham

The key here is balance. Windows are essential, but they do not have to be excessively large nor so numerous. Large windows can be a security risk, since it would be difficult and more expensive to put iron bars on those windows. With the economy going now and into the future, there will be more burglaries...and the burglars will choose those homes that are less fortified first. What I see in new home designs is excessive amount of glassed area in comparison to earlier home designs.

Perhaps the new home building code should allow excessive glassed area ONLY if high-efficiency glass is used. Otherwise, those who can't afford expensive glass should have not too much window area.

bobs

The comment about the coal fired generating capacity in the US is off by about a factor of two. If there were 600 1 GW coal plants the capacity would be 600 GW. In fact the actual capacity of all coal plants is nearer to 300 GW. See DOE data. However, the comment about PV solution is still interesting, the comparison is just off by a factor of two.

SJC

Ok, so now 50 million homes with 4kw PV can generate power for 2000 hours per year to replace maybe 15% of the coal fired power plants. Clinton and Gore tried for 1 million solar roofs 20 years ago and we are still not there.

Reel$$

"Large windows can be a security risk, since it would be difficult and more expensive to put iron bars on those windows."

Not hard. Call on the prison/industrial complex that profits from crime rate fear mongers.

Personally, the more glass, the more light. More light, less crime. It's called transparency.

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