Energy futuresU.S. DOE offers $1.3 billion funding for clean coal technology

Published 26 June 2008

The Bush administration sees clean coal as a vital component of its energy policy, and the Department of Energy announced a funding opportunity of $1.3 billion for companies and organizations doing research and development of clean coal

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to invest in 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 program (see HS Daily Wire of 12 February 2008 and 13 February 2008). The solicitation is seeking multiple cost-shared projects to advance coal-based power generation technologies that capture and store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). The department anticipates $290 million will be available for funding of selected projects through fiscal year 2009 and an additional $1.01 billion is expected to be available in subsequent years, subject to appropriations by Congress. The FOA provides instructions for submitting applications and outlines the mission need and background, project description, and the primary technical goals and performance requirements. The announcement also provides the evaluation criteria, terms and conditions of a model cooperative agreement, as well as cost-sharing required for public-private cooperation under the restructured FutureGen projects. Applications are due 8 October 2008 and the selection of projects is targeted for the end of calendar year 2008.

DOE announced a restructured approach to its FutureGen project on 30 January 2008, to build on technological research and development advancements in CCS technology achieved over the past five years. This department said that the new approach responds to changing market conditions for clean coal technology, as well as efforts to limit taxpayer exposure and maximize 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 with CCS technology. By funding multiple projects DOE expects at least to double the amount of CO2 sequestered compared to the amount under the concept announced in 2003. When these plants are operational, they will be the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the world - each capturing and storing an expected 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Subject to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the 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 the end of 2015. The restructured FutureGen approach will focus on the challenges associated with avoiding and reducing carbon emissions 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.

DOE’s FOA requires that at least 50 percent of the energy output of the project’s energy conversion system must be used to produce electricity and the project must be located in the United States. In addition, the FutureGen goal is 90 percent capture of carbon content in the syngas or flue gas. Projects must also remove at least 90 percent of the mercury emissions based on mercury content of the coal, and reduce sulfur, nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions to very low levels. To ensure safe and permanent sequestration, DOE also includes in the FOA monitoring and verification performance requirements for FutureGen projects, including quantifying and assessing CO2 capture, transport, and storage during a 3-5 year demonstration of at least one million metric tons of CO2 injected per year in a saline formation; monitoring and reporting to DOE the plumes of injected CO2 for a minimum of two years after cessation of the injection demonstration; and developing information necessary to estimate costs of future CO2 management systems.

The department says that 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 more rapid commercialization, facilitating economic growth, and increasing living standards in a way that maximizes Federal investment and limits taxpayer risk. 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 more than $2.5 billion invested to advance clean coal technology since 2001.