By Ari Natter
31 --The Energy Department recommended moving forward with the FutureGen 2.0
carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project in a final environmental impact statement that found the
country's most inclusive CCS project would have minimal environmental
The document recommended that the department proceed with a
plan to provide $1 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding
for the project at an Illinois power plant, while rejecting alternatives that
ranged from taking no action to using alternative technology and fuel
The final environmental impact statement, to be published in the
Federal Register Nov. 1, paves the way for the Energy Department to issue a
final record of decision--the agency's last step in its review process--as
early as December, though permits at other entities need to be approved before
construction on the project can begin.
The $1.65 billion project is
backed by the FutureGen Alliance, a nonprofit organization made up of coal
mining and electric power companies that include Alpha Natural Resources Inc.,
Anglo American SA, Joy Global Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp.
which is in the preconstruction and design phase, would allow an existing
coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Ill., to capture more than 90 percent of
the plant's carbon dioxide emissions and pipe them to an underground storage
site 30 miles away in Morgan County, Ill.
The 168-megawatt project would
be the first in the world to use a process known as oxy-combustion on a large
scale, which burns coal using purified oxygen to produce a clean carbon dioxide
emissions stream that is easier to capture than the diluted carbon dioxide
resulting from burning coal with ambient air.
“DOE considered the advancement of carbon capture and storage
technology critically important to addressing CO2
emissions and global climate change concerns associated with coal-fueled
energy,” the department said in its environmental review.
FutureGen project, which would be the first of its kind, was conceived in 2003
by the Bush administration, but was discontinued in 2008 for reasons that
included increasing costs. The Obama administration resurrected the project in
2010, renaming it FutureGen 2.0.
The Energy Department's latest green
light for the project comes as a Congressional Research Service report cast
doubt on the potential of FutureGen 2.0 to meet a 2015 deadline to use the
stimulus funding, and questions have risen about the viability of using CCS
technologies on a commercial scale .
Construction on the project is
expected to begin during the summer of 2014, following approval of an
Underground Injection Control permit pending at the Environmental Protection
Agency, air and water permit applications submitted to the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency and approval of a pipeline construction permit
by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, according to the FutureGen Alliance.
“The EIS identifies no significant
environmental impacts and describes how the mitigation measures proposed by the
Alliance will avoid or minimize impacts to sensitive resources,” Ken Humphreys,
FutureGen Alliance chief executive, said in a statement. “We look forward to
DOE finalizing the EIS and issuing a Record of Decision, which will allow us to
keep this near-zero emissions project on track.”
could begin in 2017, according to the Energy Department.
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The final environmental impact statement for the FutureGen project
is available at http://energy.gov/nepa/downloads/eis-0460-final-environmental-impact-statement.