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Obama Administration Axes $1.68B FutureGen Project in Illinois

Two days after releasing a budget peppered with funding initiatives to combat climate change, the Obama administration has canceled a decade-old, $1.68 billion project to retrofit a coal-fired power plant in Illinois that had for a time been considered coal’s future, a successful carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) facility.

The project, FutureGen 2.0, called for outfitting one of the boiler units at a power plant in Meredosia, IL, with an oxy-combustion system designed to capture at least 90% of carbon emissions. The Department of Energy (DOE) was to contribute $1 billion to the project, with private sources contributing the remainder.

But in a recent statement, FutureGen Alliance CEO Ken Humphreys said DOE had suspended its involvement in FutureGen 2.0. The nonprofit organization had been attempting to secure the clean coal technology.

"The DOE has concluded that there is insufficient time to complete the project before federal funding expires in September 2015," Humphreys said. "Despite the Alliance's commitment to advancing CCS technology and cleaner energy from coal, as well as our belief that there are solutions to address the impending deadline, the Alliance must comply with DOE's directive.

"The Alliance continues to believe that CCS is critical for the world's energy future if we are serious about developing clean energy and reducing carbon emissions. FutureGen 2.0 is the only project in the world that demonstrates oxy-combustion technology and fully integrates deep saline geologic storage. Our hope is that industry and government will continue to find ways to develop CCS technology for a cleaner, more secure energy future."

The project called for building a 10-inch diameter pipeline to carry carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Meredosia Energy Center to an underground storage facility in northeastern Morgan County, IL. The CO2 would be compressed, injected and stored about 4,000 feet below the surface into a geologic reservoir in the Mount Simon Sandstone. The retrofitted plant was to be operational in 2017.

Peabody Energy, the world's largest privately-sector coal producer and a founding member of the FutureGen Alliance, called on the Obama administration to reverse its decision.

"It makes no sense to pull the plug on $1 billion committed to America's signature near-zero emissions power project at such a critical time for these investments in technology," said Peabody CEO Greg Boyce. "The administration has pledged $1 billion for advanced coal projects in China, and I urge them to support investments in the United States. We have the knowledge to advance low-carbon technologies to commercial scale and must demonstrate our leadership and our will."

Ironically, back in 2008, President Obama, then a U.S. Senator from Illinois, urged the Bush administration to support the FutureGen project. DOE subsequently shelved it under Bush, but the project again garnered consideration under Obama (see NGIJan. 12, 2009Feb. 4, 2008). The project was first announced in 2003 and was to begin operations in 2012.

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