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Carbon Neutral Coal


Guest Ruggiero
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Guest Ruggiero

In 2002, coal accounted for 26 percent of world energy sources but a whopping 70 percent of China's energy—"the dirtiest energy mix on the planet," Ogden said. Coal is abundant and cheap—even free. There are regions where people just scoop up coal dirt from the hills and burn it for cooking.

 

Coal's convenience may contribute to the fact that 16 of the world's 20 most air-polluted cities are in China. Coal burning releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, sulfur oxides and other contributors to acid rain, and mercury and other health-harming contaminants. Each year, 400,000 Chinese die prematurely and 75 million suffer asthma attacks. And air pollution knows no borders. Ogden noted that 40 percent of U.S. mercury contaminants originate overseas.

 

China ramping up its economy to achieve a Western standard of living while grappling with greenhouse gases produced through energy consumption. By 2020, as megacities rise, superfactories roil and automobiles rumble, China's gross domestic product is expected to quadruple and its energy consumption is expected to at least double.

 

Coal will continue to dominate China's future energy supply. For this reason, advanced coal technologies are essential. Carbon capture and sequestration may reduce emissions by 20 percent.

 

China is likely to develop carbon-neutral coal, but only after the United States does. The Chinese tend to approach problems incrementally, "crossing the river by feeling the stones, rather than "leapfrogging across the United States.

 

Nonetheless, the Chinese have been champions of energy efficiency in some regards. Per capita, they consume about 10 times less energy than Americans. And the inefficient engines in typical sport utility vehicles will be illegal on Chinese streets starting in 2008.

 

FutureGen, near-carbon-neutral coal-fired power plant (a $1.8 billion joing govt and private enterprise) has just been scrapped.

 

On February 27, 2003, the federal government announced FutureGen, a $1 billion initiative to create a coal-based power plant focused on demonstrating a revolutionary clean coal technology that would produce hydrogen and electricity and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The FutureGen project was initiated in response to the National Energy Policy of May 2001, which emphasized the need for diverse and secure energy sources that could largely be provided by America's most abundant domestic energy resource, coal.

 

While FutureGen's goal for a technological solution to produce electricity from coal in an environmentally responsible way remains the same, the estimated cost of the FutureGen project has risen sharply and could have risen even higher. However, technological advancements over the past five years have allowed a restructuring of FutureGen to evolve from a large-scale R&D testing lab to multiple commercial-scale demonstration plants.

 

FutureGen's restructured approach proposes federal funding to demonstrate cutting-edge CCS technology at multiple commercial-scale integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) coal power plants. It includes engagement with the international community which will remain integral to advancing CCS technology on a global scale. Under this approach, multiple commercial plants would each produce at least 300 megawatts of electricity and jointly these projects will capture and safely sequester at least double the amount of carbon dioxide annually compared to the concept announced in 2003.

 

The restructured approach will focus on separating carbon dioxide (CO2) for CCS, and does not include hydrogen production, which the concept announced in 2003 included. Hydrogen production for commercial use will remain an important component of the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative and other research initiatives aimed at fundamentally changing the way we power our vehicles.

 

The success of federally-sponsored R&D in IGCC and CCS technologies has made FutureGen's accelerated, restructured approach possible. This approach will provide more electricity from multiple clean coal plants, at least twice as much CO2 sequestered, a more cost-effective strategy to limit taxpayer exposure to escalating costs, and provide for wider use and more rapid commercialization of CCS technology than the concept announced in 2003. This more focused approach provides an all-around better investment for U.S. taxpayers.

 

The FutureGen concept announced in 2003 planned the creation of a near-zero emissions, 275 MW power plant that produced hydrogen and electricity from coal on a smaller-than-commercial-scale, serving as a laboratory for technology development. Today's announcement builds on advancements in technology made since 2003 and allows for electricity to be produced and greenhouse gas emissions sequestered at a rate and scale that offers tremendous potential for commercial viability. The restructured approach will focus on separating carbon dioxide (CO2) for CCS, and does not include hydrogen production, which the concept announced in 2003 included; however, hydrogen production for commercial use will remain an important component of DOE's other energy initiatives. Also, engagement with the international community will remain an integral part of DOE's efforts to advance CCS technology on a global scale.

 

The four sites - two in Illinois and two in Texas - evaluated in the Department's Environmental Impact Statement issued in November 2007, including the site announced by the FutureGen Alliance in December 2007, Mattoon, IL, may be eligible to host a commercial-scale IGCC plant with CCS technology. The site analysis and characterization data at these sites may be applicable to future environmental analyses under this restructured approach. More than one site may be selected as a host for the commercial demonstration of CCS technology and DOE encourages applicants to include these four sites in their consideration for this restructured approach. Also, the FutureGen Alliance's 13 member companies may compete with all the other applicants.

 

Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Mudd said that "The FutureGen project at Mattoon is in the best position to move ahead with the urgency that the energy and climate challenges demand."

 

This project is further along than any other such project in the world to integrate IGCC with 90% carbon capture and sequestration in deep saline geologic formations while generating electricity using a first-of-a-kind hydrogen turbine. As a not-for-profit, the Alliance will be sharing the results with the world, a fact unique to FutureGen as currently configured. These elements must be proven together to commercialize these technologies. Any other proposed projects would likely trail FutureGen by many years.

 

Mudd noted that the Mattoon site has all of the attributes required to be successful, including a secure water source and the ability to inject CO2 on-site eliminating the need for an extended offsite pipeline. In addition, public support is overwhelming. The Alliance board was moved by the several hundred citizens who attended a public reception to meet the board.

 

Alliance Board Chairman, Paul Thompson announced the Alliance’s intention to work with the White House, Congress, the Department of Energy, and the Illinois Congressional delegation and other stakeholders to advance the project. He stressed that FutureGen at Mattoon remains the world’s premier project to advance near-zero emissions coal plant technology in the shortest possible time.

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Guest Greenzen

The coal industry thought it had found the answer that would allow coal-fired power plants to continue generating electricity while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions -- a process that captures carbon emissions and stores them underground.

 

Illinois is to be the testing ground for the promising but untested technology.

 

In 2007, Mattoon, Ill. was chosen over dozens of sites across the country as the future site for FutureGen, a $1.5 billion public-private partnership to build a first-of-its-kind coal-fueled, near-zero-emissions power plant. The U.S. Energy Department is to pay for most of the development costs of the plant.

 

Now state energy industry leaders say the plant may be too far behind in development to save coal.

 

The idea behind Mattoon is that the carbon dioxide emissions from coal could be stored permanently beneath the ground.

 

Although supportive of the technology, Midwest Generation, with six coal-fired power plants in Illinois, said it doesn't think carbon sequestration will be economically or technically feasible for more than a decade.

 

"The technology has been used for years in the oil and gas industry," said James Monk, president of the Illinois Energy Association, which represents the state's investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in the public policy arena. "But it's never been used in the electric generation industry, and it's never been used at the kind of scale you'd have to use it at the electric generation facilities."

 

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