FutureGen is looking to invest a whole lot of money in clean coal power plants…but only because they couldn’t pull off their own zero-emissions coal plant project.
FutureGen is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and 13 energy and mining companies from around the world. Together, their intention was to come up with a commercial-scale near zero-emissions energy plant that would also capture and store CO2 and produce hydrogen; however, the project cost has spiraled out of control. Nevertheless, the organization still plans to hunker down and move ahead with the carbon capture and storage (CCS) aspect of the project, with the DOE announcing an opportunity for coal plants using CCS technology to get a sizeable chunk of funding from FutureGen.
While it is encouraging to see CCS technology getting a leg up in the US, especially considering some of the advancements we’ve seen here and elsewhere in the world, it is still frustrating that the project to clean up the coal industry has to be drastically downsized. Rather than one big project that could illustrate the success of this new technology, the DOE is turning towards multiple 300 MW projects across the country to lead the way, a scattered endeavor that may simply be all talk for the foreseeable future. With this CCS investment opportunity announcement (or, perhaps more accurately, We Can’t Pull It Off, So Maybe You Can plea) the DOE said it wants to invest in other “clean coal power plants” that already have CCS technology…a bit of a rare beast here in the US. This may be good incentive for coal power plants to retrofit or build with new technology, but there are other ways to clean up power plants without the elusive carbon capture technology, and other ways to use CO2 than just “storing” it.
This kind of lackluster approach to CCS technology investment tells me that obtaining realistic programs at coal plants anytime soon, even in the next 20 years, seems optimistic.
written by Tom Konrad, July 04, 2008
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