Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Caterpillar & Exelon Join FutureGen Alliance

Feb 8: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that Caterpillar, a global leader in the manufacturing of heavy machinery, will join the FutureGen Alliance. This is the second major new Alliance member signed up in just over a week. Caterpillar's move signals critical support ahead of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) pending decision to move ahead on FutureGen construction in Mattoon, Illinois. On January 30, Illinois-based Exelon, one of the nation's largest electric utilities and energy providers, added its support to the project by becoming a member of the FutureGen Alliance partnership.

    On July 14, 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Record of Decision (ROD) to move forward on FutureGen toward the first commercial scale, fully integrated, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project in the country. At the time, DOE said its decision was "based on careful consideration of the proposed project's potential environmental impacts, as well as the program goals and objectives." The ROD and a cooperative agreement signed by DOE and the FutureGen Alliance allowed the Alliance to proceed with site-specific activities for the project. The Department and the Alliance will decide very soon whether to continue the project through construction and operation. 

    Governor Quinn said, "I welcome Caterpillar's investment in FutureGen and in Illinois," said The company's support -- just over a week after another major Illinois-based company, Exelon, signed on to the project -- is a clear sign that momentum for this project is gaining. This shows that the private sector stands alongside my administration and our local partners to move quickly and effectively once we receive the final 'go' from DOE." FutureGen is designed to be the cleanest coal-fueled power plant in the world. The 275 megawatt facility will convert coal into hydrogen and electricity, while capturing and safely storing the carbon dioxide in sandstone formations a mile beneath the site. It will lay the groundwork for developing similar plants around the country and the world, pioneering the capture, rather than release of greenhouse gases.

    FutureGen would also create jobs and economic growth. Initial estimates state that 1,300 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs would be created through FutureGen. In addition, a study conducted by Southern Illinois University showed that during the four-year construction period, there would also be 1,225 indirect and induced spin-off jobs created and more than $1 billion in economic impact statewide as a result of FutureGen.

    Senator Durbin said, "In just a little over a week, the FutureGen Alliance has added another strong partner with a deep connection to Illinois. U.S. Caterpillar will bring a great deal to the table as the FutureGen Alliance and the Department of Energy continue in the final stages of negotiations. I look forward to welcoming many new FutureGen Alliance members -- from Illinois and around the world." Last week, President Obama moved decisively to support the mission of FutureGen and clean coal projects to follow. Governor Quinn sent a letter to the President on Thursday praising his decision to establish an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) [See WIMS 2/4/10].

    According to a release from the FutureGen Alliance, the final go-ahead depends on increasing Alliance membership and dollar contributions from the private-sector support, as well as reducing total project costs. At stake is $1.1 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to re-launch the FutureGen project. The State of Illinois has put together a comprehensive investment package that includes direct grants, financing incentives and tax-related savings, to help ensure that FutureGen comes to Illinois.

    DOE's total anticipated financial contribution for the project is $1.073 billion, $1 billion of which would come from Recovery Act (ARRA) funds for CCS research. The FutureGen Alliance's total anticipated financial contribution is $400 million to $600 million. The total cost estimate of the project is $2.4 billion, consequently, the Alliance, with support from DOE, are pursuing options to raise the additional non-federal funds needed to build and operate the facility.

    Access a release from Governor Quinn's Office (click here). Access the FutureGen Alliance website (click here). Access the DOE FutureGen website for more information (click here).