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Back to the FutureGen: ???Clean' Coal Plant Gets New Backing

"Back to the futuregen: 'clean' coal plant gets new backing(By Alexis Madrigal via Wired)The Department of Energy's flagship "clean coal" power plant has a new
lease on life, thanks to a billion dollars from last year's stimulus
package.The plan to build the plant, which will be the first large plant to capture
and bury its carbon dioxide emissions in the ground, was scrapped by the
Bush Administration in early 2008.Rekindling the FutureGen project is a signal that the Obama Administration
and Energy Secretary Steve Chu won't just be supporting wind and solar
power, but some new fossil fuel technologies, too."This important step forward for FutureGen reflects this Administration's
commitment to rapidly developing carbon capture and sequestration
technology as part of a comprehensive plan to create jobs, develop clean
energy and reduce climate change pollution," said Steve Chu, Secretary of
Energy, in a DOE statement. "The FutureGen project holds great promise as a
flagship facility to demonstrate carbon capture and storage at commercial
scale. Developing this technology is critically important for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and around the world."Carbon capture and sequestration is a hotly debated technology among energy
and climate experts. Some environmental groups argue that burying CO2 isn't
feasible in the near-term and merely acts as a rhetorical front for the
fossil fuel industries. On the other hand, the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, the U.N.-backed body of climate researchers, see it as a
major part of the long-term energy future. If it works and it's cheap — two
huge ifs — it would provide low-carbon power 24 hours a day, seven days a
week.The Department of Energy, under Chu, had already announced a separate chunk
of $2.4 billion for carbon burial, bringing its total support for the tech
to $3.4 billion.Politically, it's a popular "green" technology in the coal states,
particularly in the South, where renewable energy resources are more
limited than in other areas of the country. And if it works really well,
it's possible that biomass could be burned, which would actually pull
carbon out of the atmosphere.The carbon burial process is geologically complex. You need just the right
combination of layers of rock: one porous rock layer, such as sandstone,
that can contain the CO2, and then a layer (or layers) of impermeable
caprock, such as shale, on top of that to prevent the gas from escaping
back to the surface. Just capturing the CO2 out of a mix of other molecules
is difficult, too. It takes highly engineered materials that selectively
capture CO2 and release it on command. The high-tech nature of both of
components of a carbon capture and sequestration plant have soured some
utility executives on the technology.One major problem is that no one has actually tried to bury CO2 in huge
quantities, or as industry folks would say, at scale. Without real-world
testing, it's hard to know whether it will be possible to scrub the CO2
from our coal plants at a reasonable cost.The 275-megawatt FutureGen project has long been intended to be that real
world laboratory. First announced by President Bush as a $1 billion project
in 2003, it was supposed to prove that coal power plants could effectively
capture and store their greenhouse gas emissions underground. The project
advanced slowly, though, and its total cost is now estimated at $1.8
billion.While Chu's words were a strong indication that the project has his
backing, the future of FutureGen is not entirely assured. The DOE and the
collection of corporations known as the FutureGen Alliance will take
another look at the feasibility of the project in early 2010 before truly
moving forward.For the latest jobs in cleaner coal from around the world please click here"