DOE takes next steps with restructured FutureGen approach

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released a draft Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to solicit public input on the demonstration of multiple commercial-scale Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) or other clean coal power plants with cutting-edge carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology under the Department’s restructured FutureGen approach.  The draft solicitation outlines the planned scope of the project, evaluation criteria, terms and conditions, and cost sharing requirements for public-private cooperation under FutureGen.  DOE announced a restructured approach to its FutureGen project on January 30, 2008, to build on technological research and development advancements in CCS technology achieved over the past five years, changing market conditions for clean coal technology, as well as efforts to limit taxpayer exposure and maximise the federal government’s investment in this cutting-edge technology.  The restructured approach aims to accelerate the near-term deployment of advanced clean coal technology by equipping new IGCC or other clean coal commercial power plants – that generate at least 300 MW of power – with CCS technology and, with multiple projects funded, is expected to at least double the amount of CO2 sequestered compared to the concept announced in 2003.

“After reviewing dozens of constructive comments on our restructured approach to FutureGen, we are pleased today to issue a draft solicitation as we take steps to demonstrate the commercial potential of cutting-edge carbon sequestration technology,” Under Secretary of Energy Bud Albright said. “Each of these plants will sequester at least one million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and will help meet our nation’s rapidly growing demand for energy using our most abundant energy resource in an environmentally responsible way.”

The draft FOA is intended to provide an opportunity for public review and comment beginning today and extending through May 21, 2008.  Input from interested parties will be considered in the development of the final solicitation, which DOE expects to release in mid-summer 2008, with selection of projects targeted for December 2008.

The draft FOA outlines DOE’s estimated investment, which would be set out in cooperative agreements or technology investment agreement(s) awarded to commercial partners, and would range from $100-$600 million per project.  Subject to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the draft FOA envisions commercial operation of IGCC or other clean coal power plants equipped with CCS technology to begin as soon as the plants are commissioned by December 31, 2015.   DOE anticipates $290 million (through FY ’09) will be available for initial project selection(s) under this FOA and anticipates an additional $1.01 billion in subsequent years.

DOE’s draft FOA also requires that at least 50% of the energy output of the project’s energy conversion system must be used to produce electricity; the project must produce at least 300 MW gross electricity output; and the project must be located in the United States.  In addition, the projects must be designed to achieve a goal of approximately 90% capture of carbon content in the syngas or flue gas and must achieve a minimum capture rate of 81%.  Under the draft FOA, projects must also remove at least 90% of the mercury emissions based on mercury content of the coal, at least 99% of the sulphur emissions based on sulphur content of the coal, and reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions to very low levels.

To ensure safe and permanent sequestration, DOE requires a number of monitoring and verification performance requirements for FutureGen project(s), including quantifying and assessing CO2 capture, transport, and storage aspects for the duration of a three to five year demonstration of a least 1 Mt/y of CO2 injected in a saline formation; monitoring the plume(s) of injected CO2 for a minimum of two years after cessation of the injection demonstration, with the results of the monitoring reported to DOE; and developing information necessary to estimate costs of future CO2 management systems.

The restructured FutureGen approach will focus on the challenges associated with avoidance and reduction of carbon emissions and criteria pollutants through sequestration.  Technical, economic, and operational results from multiple projects will inform and guide the promulgation of regulations related to wide-scale carbon sequestration activities and at the same time will help establish technologies and protocols for CO2 monitoring, mitigation and verification. 

The restructured FutureGen program is a cost-shared collaboration between the government and industry to accelerate commercial deployment of IGCC or other advanced clean coal-based power generation technology with CCS.  Widespread replication of this technology by the private sector and global community would help to meet energy and environmental needs by expanding the use of an abundant energy resource in environmentally responsible ways, facilitating economic growth, and increasing living standards in a way that maximises federal investment and limits taxpayer risk. 

Clean coal technology is a vital component of the Bush Administration’s vision for a cleaner, more secure energy future and the restructured approach to FutureGen will demonstrate the integration of IGCC or other clean coal technology with CCS to enable wider use and commercialisation more rapidly.  President Bush’s FY 2009 budget request of $648 million for clean coal research, development and deployment represents the largest amount requested for DOE’s coal program in more than 25 years and builds on over $2.5 billion invested to advance clean coal technology since 2001.