CHICAGO — The revamped $1.2 billion clean coal FutureGen project advanced this week after a coalition of coal and power companies announced its commitment to the revised plan to build a pipeline and underground storage facility in Illinois to house emissions from an existing coal plant.
Until Tuesday, the FutureGen Alliance had not said whether it supported the revamped project announced by the U.S. Department of Energy last month.
The group met Tuesday and voted to remain a part of the project although it still needs to reach an agreement with federal authorities.
“The alliance is pleased that DOE and Sen. [Dick] Durbin have been able to preserve the $1 billion in funding for advancing clean-coal technologies and the associated jobs, and we look forward to working with them and our new partners in making FutureGen 2.0 a success,” Steve Winberg, a general manager at Consol Energy Inc. and chairman of the FutureGen Alliance board, said in a statement.
The DOE in late 2007 chose Mattoon, Ill., as the site for a then-$1.5 billion pioneering coal plant that would harness the latest technology in the construction of a coal gasification plant.
The proposed plant — to be constructed by the companies that make up the FutureGen Alliance — would convert coal into hydrogen and electricity with about 90% of carbon dioxide emissions captured and stored safely underground instead of being released into the atmosphere.
The project stalled after the administration of George W. Bush pulled its financial support in early 2008 due to escalating costs.
The Obama administration showed renewed interest and last month announced a dramatically revised version to be built with $1 billion in federal stimulus funds.
The project calls for an idled plant owned by Ameren Energy Resources in Morgan County, Ill., to be retrofitted with its carbon dioxide emissions moved through a newly constructed pipeline to a new underground storage facility.
The project would be the first to use oxy-combustion technology, which burns coal with a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide instead of air to produce a concentrated carbon dioxide stream that can safely be stored.
The revised plan relies on $75 million of state bond financing through the Illinois Finance Authority to cover a portion of the pipeline costs and another $25 million in borrowing from the local government that would house the underground facility.
Since the August announcement, Mattoon has pulled out of the project, leaving the alliance and federal government to search for a new site.
The FutureGen Alliance, Babcock & Wilcox, Ameren, and Air Liquide Process & Construction Inc. would manage construction of the project with the alliance expected to contribute $275 million.
State officials and Illinois Democrat Durbin, who has led the effort to secure federal funding for the project, said they believe the project — dubbed FutureGen 2.0 — will produce more than 1,000 construction jobs in Illinois and another 1,000 jobs to suppliers. Officials hope to break ground in 2012.
The technology for re-powering and retrofitting plants derived from FutureGen 2.0 could lead to the retrofitting of many coal-fired power plants in Illinois, creating more than 30,000 jobs in the state over the next 10 years and could serve as a national model, according to a state and federal authorities.
Durbin said in a statement: “The vote by the FutureGen Alliance today affirmed what the Department of Energy, the state of Illinois, and so many potential Illinois community partners already know — FutureGen 2.0 is an exciting opportunity to create jobs in Illinois and put our state on the cutting edge of clean-coal research.”