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FutureGen, World's Cleanest Coal Plant, Sited in Illinois
WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2007 (ENS) - A consortium of some of the world's largest coal companies and electric utilities has selected the small east-central Illinois town of Mattoon for FutureGen, a $1.4 billion coal-fueled power plant that is planned as the cleanest in the world.

The FutureGen Alliance today announced that Mattoon was chosen over three other sites in Tuscola, Illinois; Jewett, Texas; and Odessa, Texas.

"The Alliance would like to congratulate Mattoon, Illinois for being chosen as the final site to host the FutureGen facility," said Mike Mudd, CEO of the FutureGen Alliance, making the announcement at the National Press Club in Washington. "Officials from Mattoon should be commended for their determination and dedication to the FutureGen program."

An artist's concept of the FutureGen power plant. (Image courtesy DOE)
The Mattoon site consists of 444 acres of privately owned farmland located one mile northwest of Mattoon, in Coles County, Illinois. The site has access to the Canadian National (Illinois Central) Railroad and access to Interstate 57 via a new interchange.

The 275-megawatt prototype plant will serve as a large scale engineering laboratory for testing new clean power, carbon capture, and coal-to-hydrogen technologies.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is delighted with the choice of Mattoon. "We are thrilled that Illinois will be home to FutureGen," he said. "This decision represents the culmination of years of hard work and dedication, and we are honored that the FutureGen Alliance and the U.S. Department of Energy have entrusted us with this groundbreaking project."

"FutureGen's 'near zero-emission' coal-gasification technology holds great promise to revolutionize our nation's coal industry and ensure that coal continues to be an integral part of our energy future while reducing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change," the governor said. "As the entire world watches, Illinois is ready to get to work to ensure that FutureGen is a success."

The FutureGen Initiative, announced by President George W. Bush on February 27, 2003, is based on recommendations in the National Energy Policy issued in May 2001.

At the heart of the project will be coal gasification technologies will turn coal into a highly enriched hydrogen gas, which can be burned much more cleanly than directly burning the coal itself.

For the first time coal gasification will be integrated with carbon dioxide, CO2, capture and geologic sequestration to prevent this greenhouse gas from adding to atmospheric accumulations responsible for global warming.

The hydrogen also can be used in a fuel cell to produce ultra-clean electricity, or fed to a refinery to help upgrade petroleum products.

The process is supposed to be able to eliminate common air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and convert them to useable by-products such as fertilizers and soil enhancers. Mercury pollutants also will be removed.

The Energy Department will contribute more than $1 billion for the project with remaining costs shared among members of the 12 member FutureGen alliance which includes Australian, British, and Chinese partners as well as large U.S. companies such as American Electric Power, Peabody Energy, Rio Tinto Energy America, and Southern Company.

"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," Jeff Jarrett, DOE assistant secretary of fossil energy, said at the FutureGen short-list announcement in 2006.

The final Environmental Impact Statement, EIS, issued by the Energy Department November 9 acknowledges that the sequestered CO2 might leak due to the "presence of undetected faults, wells penetrating the primary seal, or other subsurface pathways."

The Matoon FutureGen site as it exists today. (Photo courtesy DOE)

Other unknowns outlined in the EIS include the "exact quantities of materials delivered and byproducts produced, their method of transportation, and the disposition of waste" and the "exact noise profiles of power plant equipment, their proximity to nearby receptors and types and quantities of construction equipment."

Also problematic are the "current and future water levels in potentially affected streams near the Mattoon site," the EIS states.

The DOE outlines what it believes to be beneficial impacts of FutureGen other than a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

"The ability to effectively and economically capture CO2 emissions from existing power plants could spur the construction of new CO2 pipelines across the country to geologic formations suitable for CO2 sequestration," the EIS says.

"In the near term, it is likely that the most economical geologic sequestration projects would support enhanced oil recovery or enhanced coalbed methane operations," according to the EIS.

"If CO2 becomes a regulated air pollutant in the U.S. in the future, sequestration in deep saline aquifers (which are generally more geographically dispersed throughout the U.S. than oil and gas reservoirs) may become more likely targets for carbon sequestration," the EIS states.

The selection of Mattoon will be finalized upon the Department of Energy's issuance of the National Environmental Policy Act Record of Decision and other contract documents.

FutureGen will give an economic boost to the the region and the state. A recent study by Southern Illinois University-Carbondale found that the project will have a much larger impact than the 1,300 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs the DOE estimates will be created.

The study showed that during the four-year construction period, there would be more than $1 billion in economic impact statewide and 1,225 indirect and induced spin-off jobs created as a result of the economic ripple effect generated by FutureGen.

Once the facility is operational, the study noted that FutureGen would generate $135 million annually in total statewide economic output, with an $85 million annual increase in Coles County alone.

"Today I could not be more proud to represent this victorious region," said Illinois State Senator Dale Righter, Republican who represents Mattoon. "This has been a community effort from day one to prepare a site for such an innovative venture. I look forward to the next step where we make this promise of economic evolution a reality." To read the Final FutureGen Environmental Impact Statement, click here.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.



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