There’s been change afoot as the facts of the infeasibility of CO2 capture and storage filters up to the higher regions of the cesspool, and as the financing nightmares and high capital costs of IGCC are paraded in public as the Indiana Duke IGCC project moves forward, and as, of course, the DOE’s EIS (here’s the DOE’s project page) for Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project drags on and on and on as the agency refuses, thankfully, to issue the Record of Decision on that… and slowly, painfully slowly, the truth about this IGCC pipedream is coming out.

A few telling tidbits, first, that they’ve given up on FutureGen IGCC, YEAAAAAAAAA:

DOE to provide $1B to revamped FutureGen

Katherine Ling, E&E reporter

The Energy Department today announced $1 billion in stimulus funding for a carbon capture and sequestration retrofit project it is labeling “FutureGen 2.0.”

The new project would retrofit a mothballed unit of an Ameren Energy Resources coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Ill., to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide and other pollutants using “oxy-combustion” technology, and then transport and sequester the CO2 in a regional storage site in Mattoon, Ill. The Mattoon location — the site of the original FutureGen project — would also house a training facility to teach oxy-combustion technology and retrofitting skills.

DOE is providing the $1 billion to the FutureGen Alliance, Ameren, Babcock & Wilcox and Air Liquide Process & Construction Inc. to develop the facility. The total cost of retrofitting the plant and building a “collection facility” for carbon dioxide, a training facility and CO2 pipelines will be about $1.13 billion in federal investment, with the expectation of up to $250 million in private investment, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters. Durbin has been a strong advocate for the project and repeatedly requested appropriations for it.

The project would be a significant change from the original FutureGen clean coal project announced by President George W. Bush and DOE in 2003. The original project supported by DOE and the FutureGen Alliance — a consortium of major coal and utility companies — aimed to build a new coal power plant on 444 acres in Mattoon that would use integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology, produce hydrogen and electricity, and capture and sequester CO2. Bush and then-Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced in 2008 that they were walking away from the project because of skyrocketing costs (Greenwire, June 12, 2009).

“Today’s announcement will help ensure the U.S. remains competitive in a carbon-constrained economy, creating jobs while reducing greenhouse gas pollution,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

“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,” Chu added.

Oxy-combustion technology utilizes oxygen and CO2 instead of air to produce a concentrated CO2 stream for safe, permanent storage, DOE said. The technology also eliminates almost all of the mercury, SOx, NOx and particulate pollutants from plant emissions and could be potentially the lowest-cost approach to clean up existing coal-fired facilities and capture CO2 for geologic storage, according to the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

“It really didn’t make any sense to prove a technology that has already been proven” and move forward with IGCC, Durbin said. “I think this is going to build way beyond the original FutureGen concept.”

Durbin said the plan is to conduct engineering and land acquisition this fall and start on construction next spring.

The construction of the pipelines, facilities and retrofit will create about 900 jobs in southern Illinois and another 1,000 jobs at suppliers across the state, according to DOE.

This study was released last June, which shows that leakage of CO2 is a major problem, and which makes sequestration not feasible:

Long-term Effectiveness and Consequences of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration – Shaffer

Can’t have information like that getting out, so USA Today, of course, plays it with the following headline — DUH, of course critics pan the study — and this is the best they could come up with and it took two months!

Critics question carbon storage study

Worries about leaks from buried greenhouse gasses unearthed in a recent climate study look overblown, say critics.

Carbon sequestration, burying carbon dioxide in underground reservoirs, has emerged in recent years as one option for continuing to burn coal and other fossil fuels from power plants while addressing global warming. A 2004 Science journal report by Princeton researchers, for example, pointed to carbon sequestration as one strategy, among many, for humanity dodging the climate consequences of pumping global warming gases into the atmosphere.

A June Nature Geoscience report by Gary Shaffer of the Danish Center for Earth System Science, however found such carbon dioxide reservoirs would have to leak less than 1% per millennium to help the climate. “The dangers of carbon sequestration are real and the development of (carbon sequestration) should not be used as a way of justifying continued high fossil fuel emissions,” Shaffer said in a statement, alluding to a debate over whether “clean coal” power plants, which would store their greenhouse gas emissions underground, are a worthwhile goal for addressing climate change.

The study made news in climate circles, but some have since pointed out problems with Shaffer’s study. “I feel that this calculation adds little to the question of whether we should use carbon capture and storage,” wrote Nature assistant news editor Richard Van Noorden, suggesting that researchers need to figure out whether carbon can be safely pumped underground in the first place before worrying about 20,000 years from now, an end point of the study.

This month, an Energy Department analysis from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) of the study found “two deeply flawed assumptions which combine to grossly overstate the impacts associated with society using carbon dioxide capture and storage.”

First, the Nature Geoscience analysis suggested that carbon sequestration would be used to bury enough greenhouse gas to stave off all future climate warming. At best, carbon sequestration could store only about half of the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for global warming, notes the PNNL critique, and likely much less. And those carbon dioxide emissions are only partly responsible for projected future average surface temperature increases (anywhere from 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit depending on actual emissions, according to March National Research Council reports) alongside deforestation, and other greenhouse gasses:

“The assumption that (sequestration) is the only mitigation technology available is therefore highly questionable as a simplifying assumption as it leads to a dramatic overestimation of the amount of CO2 required to be sequestered. This significant overestimation of CO2 stored leads directly to the enormous volume of leakage and the resulting harm from imperfect retention reported by Shaffer.”

Second, the whole point of carbon sequestration underground is that the carbon dioxide would chemically bind to the rock layers there, preventing it from leaking, over decades and centuries.

“My study was not meant to propose if and how much (sequestration) to use but rather to look for the first time at the long term consequences of any leakage back to the atmosphere of any CO2 sequestered,” Shaffer says, by email. “My results show that high emissions with (sequestration) is not the same as low emissions without (sequestration) because of the leakage and its consequences.”

But the amount of sequestration contemplated in the study is “off by at least two orders of magnitude,” says MIT’s Ruben Juanes. “I’m as skeptical of carbon sequestration as anyone — the energy penalty it incurs is substantial — but the assumptions made in this (Nature Geoscience) paper are very hard to justify.”

Princeton’s Michael Celia, another sequestration researcher, notes that research already shows that 95% of any carbon injected into a reservoir would become trapped within 1,000 years. “In general I agree with the PNNL comments,” Celia says, by email.

Carbon sequestration critics often make over-sized assumptions about the technology to write it off, Juanes adds, such as objecting to the amount of pipe needed to immediately equip every existing power plant in the nation with it, making a one-time purchase out of an economic process that would play out over decades. “No single technology can immediately bridge the gaps in climate,” Juanes says.

By Dan Vergano

CATF wants federal PPA?

July 12th, 2010

Oh, how bizarre can it get.  Sometimes, I’m left speechless in disbelief.   We all know about Clean Air Task Force’s toadying for coal, they’re the Clean Air Task FArce, but this?  It’s just going too far.


Really, here’s a quote from the Press Release:

Use an Executive Order or similar means to require the federal government to buy electricity from the proposed FutureGen plant in Mattoon, Illinois. This recommendation would provide the financial certainty needed for the project to break ground.

And I’m sure that Tom Micheletti, of Excelsior Energy/Mesaba Project infamy, is not happy about this, not happy about it because they’re proposing the FutureGen and not Mesaba:


IGCC plants have problems getting Power Purchase Agreements because they are NOT economical, even with all the federal and state subsidies, with all the perks, with all the circumvention of regulation, as the ALJ’s noted in their Recommendation to the PUC on the Mesaba Project PPA, it’s just TOO COSTLY!  And, plus, it’s NOT in the public interest!


But there goes Clean Air Task Farce saying the feds, US, we the taxpayers, should buy up the FutureGen electricity?  Give me a break!  Really, here it is from the horse’s mouth(the other end of the horse is further below) — this CATF press release just out:


Here’s the entire CATF report:

The Carbon Capture and Storage Imperative

Contact the White House, Executive Office of the President, and tell the staff what you think of CATF’s brilliant idea and what you think of CATF’s lobbying for coal:


And this article about it:

Expert: Feds should buy FutureGen’s power output

A respected environmental advocacy group has recommended the federal government alter the funding strategy for FutureGen.

John Thompson, director of the Coal Transition Project of the CATF, a non-profit organization based in Boston dedicated to reducing atmospheric pollution, believes the Obama administration should commit $1 billion in stimulus money to another carbon capture sequestration facility in Indiana with a 630 megawatt electrical capacity and commit instead to purchasing the electrical output over 20 or 30 years of the 250 megawatt FutureGen power plant proposed for a site west of Mattoon.

“FutureGen needs a commitment from the administration that is ironclad. This is a way to ultimately break the logjam on FutureGen funding. The stimulus money would be better spent at the Edwardsport IGCC project in Indiana that is more than 50 percent complete,” Thompson said in a phone interview Friday morning, referring to recommendations on coal energy solutions in a 70-page report send to President Barack Obama’s Carbon Capture and Sequestration Task Force.

The final decision by the Department of Energy on FutureGen funding has been postponed by at least six months. Last month, FutureGen Alliance CEO Mike Mudd said there is a gap between funding commitments by DOE and the alliance corporate partners of several hundred million dollars for the clean energy project with an estimated price tag of more than $2 billion.

Thompson, who lives in Southern Illinois, and his colleagues on the CATF believe federal support through a full-term energy purchase totaling several billion dollars would overcome concerns on cost overruns and other factors holding up a final agreement on FutureGen so far.

“We’re not trying to say FutureGen is a lower priority. But the facts are what they are,” Thompson explained. “The dangerous aspect of using stimulus money is what if there are cost overruns on FutureGen. It could come up short on construction or during the early stage of operations. We are worried it will become an orphan.”

Thompson said a federal electrical output purchase agreement from a FutureGen plan means the project really has a future. It can be a key part of the effort to institute carbon capture and sequestration in energy production.

He said CCS efforts in the United States have felt pressure from different sources, ranging from utilities reluctant to commit on a major scale to environmental groups wanting to phase out coal use as soon as possible.

“This has been delayed too long. The federal government needs to finally step up. With a stroke of the pen, the Obama administration can say the controversy is over,” Thompson said.

The CCS Task Force is expected to offer its recommendations in coming weeks, possibly in August. Thompson fears the political climate might cause more delays due to opposition to global warming warnings.

“The response in Washington is to rein in spending just at the time we need to complete these CCS projects. Almost of of them are in an advanced stage to break ground or fold up and blow away,” Thompson said. “The Republicans are saying global warming does not exist and many Democrats are saying we can solve our energy problems with wind power. This will require uncomfortable truths that won’t go away. And the public must realize coal won’t go away.”


Yes, the only good coal gasification plant is a dead coal gasification plant. Coal gasification just doesn’t make any sense, and even project proposers are figuring that out!

Here it is in the Chicago Tribune:

Plans dropped for Indiana coal gasification plant

Congrats to John Blair and Valley Watch for exposing the realities of this project.

Coal-gas project shelved

But potential Rockport, Ind., facility still may have life

By Bryan Corbin
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS — The developer of a $2 billion coal-to-gas plant proposed for Spencer County, Ind., has shelved the project — at least for now.

It was canceled after the developer failed to reach an agreement with utility companies for purchasing the substitute natural gas it would have produced.
Vectren Corp., which along with NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Co.), was negotiating to buy the substitute gas, said there is too much uncertainty over possible federal carbon regulations to commit to a 30-year purchase agreement now.

The proposed plant near Rockport, Ind., would have converted local coal into substitute natural gas and sold the “pipeline quality” gas to utility companies.

If built, the project could have brought 125 full-time jobs to Spencer County, not counting mining jobs to supply the coal and temporary construction jobs to build it, officials have said.

In light of the possibility of those jobs, Rockport Mayor Nedra Groves said she was disappointed by the news.

“It would have been beneficial work for the people here, and we need industry and infrastructure,” Groves said.

But the mayor hasn’t abandoned hope. The notice she received held out the possibility the project could be resumed once the economy improves.

Negotiations between the developer, Indiana Gasification LLC, and the two utilities continued for months, prompting several postponements of hearings before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

On Tuesday, Larry J. Wallace, attorney for the developer, read aloud a statement asking the commission to discontinue consideration of the proposal, at least for now. The developer hopes the project can be revived in a different form and resubmitted later, he said.

“If any viable means can be found for developing the project, Indiana Gasification will certainly pursue them,” the statement said.

Two environmental groups, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana and Valley Watch Inc., had intervened to oppose the developer’s plans. The groups contended the gasification project was a bad deal for ratepayers because it would have locked in 30-year contracts for substitute natural gas, even when the market price for natural gas might drop below that amount.

“We’ve never asked that the commission prevent them from coming back,” said Jerome Polk, attorney for Citizens Action Coalition and Valley Watch. “If (the developer) can come back with a workable proposal that makes sense, even my clients would be willing to sit down and talk if it makes sense and doesn’t hang ratepayers out to dry.”

The end of contract negotiations comes amid uncertainty over what the new Congress or the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama might require of coal plants, in terms of limiting their greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide. The likelihood that coal plants might have to capture the carbon dioxide and inject it underground, at unknown costs, adds to the uncertainty.

“That could have an impact on the price of gas this (plant) could yield, especially if the plant would have to capture carbon. That could impact the capital costs,” said Chase Kelley, Vectren Corp. communications director.

Vectren never was going to be a “significant purchaser” of the substitute gas, she said. But the uncertainty of federal carbon legislation was too much of an obstacle to reaching agreement on a 30-year purchasing contract.

A spokesman for NIPSCO would not be as specific on what derailed negotiations with the developer. “We actively negotiated . . . however, a business decision has been made to discontinue those negotiations,” NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meier said, adding the utility had made no financial commitment to the project.

The developer intended to apply for a federal loan guarantee to help finance the project along with private equity.

Two years ago, Gov. Mitch Daniels attended the Indiana Gasification announcement at Vectren headquarters in Evansville, and on Sept. 3 he specifically cited the plant as an example of clean-coal technology’s potential during an energy summit in Indianapolis.

“We understand that the developer is looking at other ways to continue the project,” the governor’s communications director, Jane Jankowski, said Tuesday.

Two legislative sessions in a row, state Rep. Russ Stilwell got bills passed to clear regulatory obstacles to the coal-to-gas plant.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed. We worked hard to get to this point,” said Stilwell, D-Boonville, whose House district includes the Rockport area. “I would call it a lost opportunity. A project of this opportunity only come around once every few decades.”

But Stilwell noted that the project is not dead unless the developer completely withdraws it. “Whatever we need to do to bring partners in, I’m committed to doing that,” Stilwell, D-Boonville, said.

For environmentalist John Blair, president of Valley Watch Inc., the developer’s announcement comes as no surprise, given the uncertainty about the project’s costs.

“In a word, ‘thrilled,'” Blair said of his reaction to the decision.

Indiana Gasification requested Tuesday that the Utility Regulatory Commission end its proceedings on the proposal, while leaving open the door to resubmitting the project later. Utility commission regulators have not ruled yet.