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FutureGen Coal Plant Resurrected

by Jeff Johnson
June 22, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 25

A once-canceled proposal to design and construct a coal-gasification facility in Mattoon, Ill., to produce electricity and capture and sequester carbon dioxide was revived by Energy Secretary Steven Chu on June 12. Proposed by President George W. Bush, the FutureGen facility would be the first commercial-scale "integrated gasification combined cycle" power plant that also captures and sequesters CO2 underground. FutureGen will be paid for primarily by DOE, but a smaller share would be funded by a consortium of 20 power and coal companies that would build and own the facility. In 2007–08, as FutureGen moved along, cost estimates grew to at least $1.8 billion and the Bush-era DOE canceled the 275-MW project, announcing it would shift funds to several small clean-coal projects. DOE's cost estimates, however, were challenged by the consortium, the Government Accountability Office, and the Illinois congressional delegation, particularly Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin (D). Chu now has laid out a path to quickly restart the project—with preliminary designs, updated cost estimates, and new subsurface site studies to be completed in early 2010, when a final decision will be made. DOE has capped its share at $1.1 billion.


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