Borrowing liberally from Mark Twain’s famous quote, it would appear that reports of the death of coal as a power plant fuel “have been greatly exaggerated” as the siting competition for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) FutureGen clean coal power project continues to heat up. Last week, Ohio joined the growing alliance of coal producing and consuming states in support of locating the federal FutureGen project in Illinois, noting that it is “essential” to site the project in a location that will maximize the transferability of the project’s technology.

Ohio joins Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin in endorsing the location of the $1.4 billion FutureGen plant at one of two sites in Tuscola or Mattoon, IL.

The 275 MW prototype power plant, based on cutting-edge technology and designed to remove and sequester carbon dioxide while producing electricity and hydrogen gas — making it the cleanest fossil fuel-fired power plant in the world — was first announced in 2003. Since then, municipalities across the country have lobbied for the project. Last year the list of possible locations for FutureGen was narrowed to four: Mattoon, Tuscola, Jewett, TX, and Odessa, TX. The FutureGen Alliance, which will own and operate the facility, has said it will announce a single, final site for the project before the end of the year. NRG Energy Inc. is among those supporting placement of the FutureGen project at one of the Texas locations.

The project’s backers say FutureGen will lay the groundwork for developing similar plants around the country and the world, pioneering the capture, rather than the release, of greenhouse gases.

Earlier this month a much anticipated final environmental impact statement (EIS) for FutureGen was released by the DOE. According to the EIS, all four sites still being considered appear suited for the project.

In 2005, DOE partnered with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance Inc., a nonprofit consortium of some of the largest coal producers and electricity generators in the world, to develop and site in the U.S. the cleanest coal-fueled power plant in the world with a target of zero emissions, hydrogen production and carbon dioxide sequestration capabilities (see Power Market Today.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, the Illinois congressional delegation and state and local partners across Illinois have been working for more than four years to bring the $1.4 billion FutureGen project to Illinois.

The state of Ohio definitely has interest in the siting of the project. In 2006 Ohio mined 22.7 million tons of coal, according to the Energy Information Administration. In addition, 87% of Ohio’s electricity is produced using coal.

“I believe it is essential to site both the FutureGen power plant and its carbon capture and sequestration pilot project in a location that maximizes the value of this significant federal investment to the entire nation. And, I believe that place is Illinois,” Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland wrote in a letter to the FutureGen Alliance. “Illinois has the right combination of geology, expertise and transportation infrastructure, all strengthened by state and community support. More importantly, the characteristics of the Illinois sites have much more in common with those of coal producing states with a significant portion of the nation’s power plant fleet. Both the challenges and lessons learned at Illinois sites will translate more quickly in Ohio.”

In response to the letter of endorsement, Blagojevich said, “I would like to personally thank Governor Strickland and the state of Ohio for their support in our quest to become home to FutureGen. It important to note that states that produce and consume coal are paying close attention to this competition. It is vital that this project is placed in a location that offers the best opportunity to replicate FutureGen’s technology. With all of our strategic assets, we are confident that Illinois is the place for FutureGen.”

Indiana and Kentucky have been aligned with Illinois on the FutureGen project for many months. Pennsylvania joined the fold last month when Gov. Ed Rendell submitted a letter to the FutureGen Alliance in support of FutureGen in Illinois. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle threw his state’s support behind Illinois earlier this month.

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