U.S. Moves Toward Near-Zero Emission Coal-Fired Power Plant

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The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that Phase II of an agreement with FutureGen Industrial Alliance has begun, taking the country one step closer to making commercial-scale carbon capture and storage technology -- and dramatically reduced emissions from coal-fired power plants -- a reality. Here are the details.

* In September 2010, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the department has signed cooperative agreements with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance and Ameren Energy Resources that committed $1 billion in Recovery Act funding to build FutureGen 2.0.

* At the time when the project was being planned, the project partners had estimated that FutureGen 2.0 would bring 900 jobs to downstate Illinois and another 1,000 to suppliers across the state, the Department reported .

* FutureGen 2.0's goal is to "help to position the United States as a leader in innovative technologies for reducing carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants," the Department of Energy reported.

* The project will involve upgrading a coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Ill., with oxy-combustion technology that will capture 90 percent of the plant's carbon emissions -- more than 1 million tons of CO2 a year -- the Department of Energy reported.

* According to the department, the oxy-combustion approach involves extracting oxygen from air before combustion, reducing the cost of carbon capture at the exhaust stack.

* The CO2 will then be transported underground at a nearby storage site.

* The first phase of the project involved identifying a sequestration site, test drilling and a commitment from the Illinois Commerce Commission to cover the FutureGen 2.0 project's output under its power purchasing plans.

* FutureGen Industrial Alliance will now begin preliminary design, pre-construction and engineering of the retrofitted, near-zero emission coal-fired power plant, the department reported.

* FutureGen Industrial Alliance was formed specifically to partner with the Department of Energy on the project. Alliance members include coal producers, users and suppliers of coal equipment around the world.

* According to the Alliance website, members of the FutureGen Industrial Alliance "believe that development and operation of FutureGen 2.0 will spur economic development in the U.S., and will serve as a model for similar plants that will help fuel the world's growing economy."

* Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said this week of the project, "We have shown time and again that FutureGen is welcome, and the project will succeed in Illinois. We look forward to working with all of the project partners to see that FutureGen 2.0 will move forward, and that the reality of this first-of-its-kind project will be realized in Illinois."

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