Texas, Illinois Vie for Near-Zero-Emissions Coal Power Plant Project
DALLAS Texas and Illinois will compete for the world's first near-zero-emissions coal power plant, a $1 billion project headed by the U.S. Department of Energy and a consortium of 10 energy companies from the United States, China and Australia.
The Energy Department and the consortium announced Tuesday that two sites from each state will vie for the project known as FutureGen, a plant designed to turn coal into a hydrogen-rich gas to produce electricity for about 275,000 single-family homes.
The project dates to 2003 when President Bush announced the need for FutureGen to address global warming and touted technologies that would capture carbon dioxide for other uses. Those include fertilizers or liquefying the gas to inject it into old oil wells and push remaining oil or natural gas to the surface.
The process would not release into the atmosphere pollutants usually associated with coal-burning plants, such as carbon dioxide. Scientists have blamed the burning of fossil fuels as one of the main causes of global warming.
Sites in Mattoon and Tuscola in Illinois and near Odessa and in Jewett in Texas, beat out eight other candidates. The winner will be announced in September 2007 and will be operating a facility deemed the "ultimate power plant" almost five years later.
"This project makes coal, one of the most abundant fossil energies in the world, available in the future in the face of growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions and climate change," said Jeff Jarrett, the Energy Department's assistant secretary of fossil energy.
The selection committee, known as FutureGen Alliance, declined to discuss specific criteria that produced a final four until they had talked to those who did not make the cut. But Mike Mudd, chief executive for FutureGen, identified strengths of each.
Jewett's site in Central Texas is 400 acres, more than twice the minimum, and sits near existing industry transmission lines.
The site near Odessa features 600 acres of land, transmission lines within two miles and thick sandstone that ensures long-term carbon dioxide storage.
Mattoon's site needs only minimal grading, has a primary water supply from waste water treating plants and thick sandstone.
Tuscola's case is strong because of proximity to three railroads, all within 1.5 miles of the site, and the thick sandstone.
Texas is putting up $20 million to the FutureGen alliance for use on infrastructure or development. Additionally, a new law indemnifies the alliance of any legal entanglements arising from the plant's carbon dioxide.
Illinois officials said they're ready to back up their candidates with up to $80 million in incentives on the table, from grants to low-interest loans.
Plans call for the 275-megawatt plant to capture most of its emissions of carbon dioxide and inject them permanently into underground reservoirs, a process called sequestration.
FutureGen wants to measure the progress of the finalists' proposals next week in Pittsburgh.
The FutureGen Alliance has already committed more than $250 million to the project. The U.S. government is putting up about $700 million. In addition to commitments from energy companies, the governments of South Korea and India have pledged $10 million each.
Sites not making the cut were: Effingham and Marshall, Ill.; Henderson County, Ky.; Bowman County, N.D.; Meigs and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio; Point Pleasant, W.Va.; and Gillette, Wyo.
Associated Press Writers Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas and Jim Paul in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.
Source: Associated Press