The U.S. Energy Department on Thursday awarded $1 billion for the FutureGen clean-coal power program and carbon dioxide storage network in Illinois, aiming to cut emissions of greenhouse gases from coal-fired electric generating plants.
"This investment in the world's first, commercial-scale, oxy-combustion power plant will help to open up the over $300 billion market for coal unit repowering and position the country as a leader in an important part of the global clean energy economy," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Oxy-combustion burns coal with a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of air to produce a concentrated CO2 stream for safe, permanent, storage. The oxy-combustion technology creates a near-zero emissions plant by eliminating almost all of the mercury, SOx, NOx, and particulate pollutants from plant emissions.
The FutureGen project will show utilities how to retrofit their coal-fired power plants to capture and store global warming emissions. The project aims to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.
"We're going to learn as we go," said Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin. "The heart of this is a research effort."
The project could eventually help retrofit 594 coal-fired power plants across the United States and perhaps thousands more globally, he said.
The companies involved in the project are privately held Ameren Energy Resources, Babcock & Wilcox, Air Liquide's Houston-based subsidiary Air Liquide Process and Construction, and the FutureGen Alliance.
The nine member companies of the Alliance are Alpha Natural Resources, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, China Huaneng Group, Consol Energy, E.ON U.S., Peabody Energy, Rio Tinto Energy America, and Xstrata Coal.
The total cost for the project is $1.2 billion and construction will begin next year, according to Durbin.