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U.S., Industry Plan Clean-coal Plant

Zero-emissions power plant will produce hydrogen as well as electricity

by Glenn Hess
December 12, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 50

Credit: Dept. of Energy Image
Artist's conception of FutureGen, a coal-fired, pollution-free power plant.
Credit: Dept. of Energy Image
Artist's conception of FutureGen, a coal-fired, pollution-free power plant.


The Department of Energysigned an agreement last week with an alliance of utilities and coal companies to build a prototype of the power plant of the future. The nearly $1 billion venture will combine electricity and hydrogen production with the virtually total elimination of harmful emissions, including greenhouse gases.

The so-called FutureGen initiative is a response to President George W. Bush's directive to develop a hydrogen economy to address global climate change.

"The prototype plant will be a stepping-stone toward future coal-fired power plants that not only will produce hydrogen and electricity with zero-emissions but will operate with some of the most advanced, cutting-edge technologies," says Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.

The U.S. will invest $700 million in the project, and the eight-company consortium will contribute $250 million, evenly divided. The alliance plans to begin operations in 2012.

At the heart of the project will be coal gasification technologies that can collect air pollutants and convert them to usable by-products such as fertilizers and soil enhancers. DOE says the technologies also will use the coal to generate hydrogen, which can be used in fuel cells or fed to a refinery to upgrade petroleum products.

FutureGen will also capture carbon dioxide and sequester it in deep underground geologic formations. The initial goal will be to capture 90% of the plant's carbon dioxide, but capture of nearly 100% may be possible with advanced technologies, according to DOE.


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