Report: Federal ‘clean coal’ power project faces uncertain future

The stimulus funding for FutureGen is slated to expire in 2015.

The Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy obtained and released the report.

The report drew quick pushback.

The head of the FutureGen Alliance, a coal industry group working with the Energy Department, told The Associated Press that $300 million that FutureGen has beyond the stimulus cash will carry the project through the planned 2017 completion.

“FutureGen 2.0 is on schedule to achieve a 2017 operating date, which will be followed by twenty years of power generation using CCS,” CEO Kenneth Humphreys said in a statement, referring to carbon capture and storage.

According to AP, the office of Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook MORE (D-Ill.), a FutureGen backer, also pushed back against the idea that FutureGen is in doubt. Check out the AP story here.

FutureGen has hit a number of hurdles over the years.

It was initially envisioned as a new, near-zero emissions gasified coal plant that would also produce hydrogen for electricity and fuel cells. 

In 2010, the Obama administration relaunched the troubled project as FutureGen 2.0, a less ambitious plan to retrofit an existing Illinois coal-fired plant, but still a major project.

“FutureGen 2.0 is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) most comprehensive [carbon capture and storage (CCS)] demonstration project, combining all three aspects of CCS technology: capturing and separating CO2 from other gases, compressing and transporting CO2 to the sequestration site, and injecting CO2 in geologic formations for permanent storage,” the CRS report states.

But the report also notes that current federal policy may not be ripe for developing CCS for coal plants, especially at a time when natural gas is an attractive alternative.

“Regulations, tax credits, or policies such as carbon taxation or cap-and-trade that increase the price of electricity from conventional power plants may be necessary to make CCS technology competitive enough for private sector investment. Even then, industry may choose to forgo coal-fired plants for other sources of energy that emit less CO2, such as natural gas,” the CRS report states.