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November 2013 Policy Study, Number 13-7


America Needs America's Energy


The FutureGen Project and the Coal industry



A recent article that I wrote was entitled, “The FutureGen Project.” In that article I mentioned that I had first heard about the FutureGen Project a few years ago when my company and I were asked to coordinate a meeting with leaders from Oklahoma and Texas at Sarkeys Energy Center, University of Oklahoma, to discuss opportunities of the project for our region. At that time, Texas was putting together a proposal for the FutureGen Project to be located within its boundaries.


The FutureGen Project, a $1 billion-plus government-industry project, was proposed to make the most of coal as a plentiful fuel. Essentially, the goal was to provide a first-of-its-kind clean power plant, with a target completion date of 2012. The goal was for this highly energy-efficient, coal-supplied power plant to produce near zero emissions. The question still to be answered: what happens to the toxic wastes composed of ash, sulphur dioxide, and mercury?


It is important to note that the FutureGen project was specifically focused on electric power generation – not to be confused with “coal to liquids” such as was first developed by what is known as Fischer Tropsch technology in Germany in the 20s and used as a transportation fuel. Also, the Project is not to be confused with “coal to gas” technology such as the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corp. efforts for transportation which did not come to fruition.


The FutureGen 2.0 would be a first-of-its-kind, near-zero-emissions power plant. What does that really mean? The program involves upgrading the designated plant with oxy-combustion technology to capture more than 90 percent of the plant’s carbon emissions. The CO2 would be transported and permanently stored underground at a nearby storage site.


From Nixon to Obama, we have been told time and again that an energy policy is in the works and a national energy plan is on the way. It is my belief that as consumers of energy, we must drive the process, evaluating how we can best leverage our natural resources here at home to ensure long-term energy independence and security.


Although FutureGen appeared to be on hold as of early 2012, then-U.S. Secretary of Energy Chu remained committed to the FutureGen project as an American energy solution. He stated, “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.”


Since a quarter of the world’s coal reserves are in the U.S., it has long been considered a major natural resource for America’s energy future. Coal is currently mined in twenty-six states. Most of the coal is mined for the use of generating electricity. The opposition to coal is because of the environmental pollution it produces. Therefore, the private-public project: FutureGen.


Coal Pros:
1) The U.S. has an over-two-hundred-year supply of coal.
2) Coal can be transformed into liquid or gas for transportation.
3) A large amount of electricity can be produced using coal at a low price.
4) Coal is relatively cheap in comparison to other energy alternatives.


Coal Cons:
1) Transforming coal to a liquid is a very expensive process.
2) CO2 sequestration is needed.
3) Coal burning produces a large amount of pollution, acid rain, and carbon dioxide.




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