The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced late Tuesday that it was ending work on the FutureGen 2.0 clean coal project in Illinois.
DOE said the project would not meet a September 2015 deadline to use $1 billion in stimulus funds and suspended the rest of the funding. FutureGen 2.0 would have retrofitted a coal-fired generating unit at Ameren’s Meredosia power plant in Illinois with an oxy-combustion system, air quality control systems, a boiler, steel and other control systems. The project was designed to capture up to 90 percent, or 1 million tons, of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the unit and inject them deep underground.
“The U.S. Department of Energy has directed the suspension of FutureGen 2.0 project development activities. The DOE has concluded that there is insufficient time to complete the project before federal funding expires in September 2015,” said FutureGen CEO Ken Humphreys. “Despite the Alliance’s commitment to advancing carbon capture and storage 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.”
Major work had already begun, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved permits for the plant in September 2014 to sequester CO2 underground.
FutureGen was first proposed in 2003 by then-President George W. Bush. A site in Mattoon, Illinois, was initially chosen, but the administration ended the program in 2008 citing cost concerns. In June 2009, DOE said it would invest the $1 billion in stimulus funds into the project and set the September 2015 deadline for the money to be spent. In October 2010, a scaled-back FutureGen, called FutureGen 2.0, broke ground.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said the project’s closure shows the Obama Administration’s “hypocrisy towards clean coal technology.” Then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama in 2006 advocated for the project to be sited in his home state of Illinois and called it “the future of coal in the United States.”
“The Obama Administration is engaging in misleading double-talk on clean coal technology. Although the administration leaned heavily on FutureGen technologies to justify its flawed New Source Performance Standards rule, President Obama has now cut the project off altogether—demonstrating his hypocrisy towards the American people and his bias against advanced clean coal technologies,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at ACCCE.
The National Mining Association (NMA) said the DOE's move does not gel with the Administration's call for cleaner energy.
"The Department of Energy's decision to back out of its commitment to its U.S. industry partners to build the world's first near zer-emissions, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) coal-fueled power plant calls into question the commitment of the Administration to the development of clean coal technologes," said NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn. "This decision cannot be reconciled with the Administration's proposal to require CCS as the only acceptable technology for any new coal-fueled power plant in the U.S."
Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman for FutureGen, said the Alliance just learned of the news and has not made a decision about future plans at this time. Humphreys said he hopes industry and government will continue to find ways to develop carbon capture and sequestration technology for the future.
“The Alliance continues to believe that CCS technology is critical for the world’s energy future if we are serious about developing clean energy and reducing carbon emissions,” Humphreys said. “FutureGen 2.0 is the only project in the world that demonstrates oxy-combustion technology and fully integrates deep saline geologic storage.