© 2012 E&E Publishing, LLC
Reprinted with permission

By Christa Marshall

The backers of a major emissions-control project said Monday that Morgan County, Illinois, will remain the “preferred” location for stored carbon dioxide captured from a retrofitted coal plant.

Previously, the FutureGen Alliance continued to maintain alternative sites in Christian and Douglas counties in the state as possible CO2 storage sites for emissions from FutureGen 2.0, one of the few remaining planned projects in the United States that would capture CO2 at commercial scale. Now it will no longer maintain those sites and will move forward with an application to U.S. EPA for a permit to inject carbon dioxide underground via the Class VI injection well program.

The alliance — a coalition of coal-related companies — also said it had acquired the necessary underground pore space from landowners to store carbon dioxide at the Morgan County location.

“The Alliance has tested the geologic conditions at the proposed storage site and has found that the site is geologically stable, has a regionally extensive primary caprock formation … and has a reservoir capacity sufficient to permanently store the CO2,” the alliance said in a statement.

The FutureGen Alliance came to those conclusions after drilling a characterization well last year and running tests, including one that involved extracting underground water and reinjecting the water to measure the reaction from surrounding rock. The group also tested the stability of the cap rock that would keep underground CO2 secure.

Additionally, the alliance said it tested the seismicity of the area and found it suitable for CO2 storage. Last month, Stanford University researchers raised concerns about carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) causing earthquakes in areas like Illinois (ClimateWire, June 19).

FutureGen 2.0 envisions retrofitting an oil plant to burn coal and capturing 90 percent of the resulting carbon dioxide emissions. It has been allocated more government funding — $1 billion from the Department of Energy — than any other proposed carbon capture initiative in the world, according to the Global CCS Institute. The project is scheduled to be operational by early 2017 if everything goes according to plan.

But the alliance still needs to obtain additional financing. The overall cost of the project is estimated at $1.65 billion, an increase from earlier this year. It also needs to obtain state permits for a 30-mile CO2 pipeline that would run from the capture to the storage site.

Yesterday, alliance spokesman Lawrence Pacheco said the group was identifying savings that could lower the total cost closer to $1.3 billion. The alliance also submitted an application for a power purchase agreement to the Illinois Power Authority to help cover the remaining costs. Pacheco said the conversations on that agreement are going “very, very well.”

The announcement comes at a difficult time for CCS in the United States. Last month, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the $6.9 billion spent by the federal government on the technology is not high enough to spur its development (ClimateWire, July 2).

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