CHICAGO – After three years of extensive planning and preparation, Illinois has submitted four potential locations for the $1 billion FutureGen coal-to-energy plant that meet the rigorous site review standards established by the FutureGen Industrial Alliance. The sites, which are located in Effingham, Marshall, Mattoon and Tuscola, are part of the state’s bid to host this state-of-the-art facility. The Alliance will develop a short list of candidate sites this summer, and the final selection will be made sometime next year.
“We have everything this $1 billion project needs to succeed, including abundant coal reserves, ideal geology, well-developed infrastructure and solid support from the Illinois Congressional delegation, the Illinois General Assembly, other local partners and the state of Indiana. By submitting these four sites that meet the Alliance's strict guidelines, we are showing that Illinois coal can meet our future energy demands using cutting-edge technology that protects our environment. For coal to be king again it has to be clean, which is why bringing the world’s cleanest coal plant to Illinois is so vital," Gov. Blagojevich said.
The sites were selected, using the rigorous site review standards established by the Alliance, based on the recommendations of experts from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)’s Office of Coal Development, the Illinois State Geological Survey-University of Illinois, the Coal Research Center-Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, the Illinois Clean Coal Institute and the Illinois Coal Association.
"FutureGen is good for Illinois coal, and I have always believed that Illinois is the best place to locate the facility. Our federal, state and local leaders are unified in the importance of this project and the need to burn coal as cleanly as possible, putting more Illinois coal miners back to work and helping the state and national economies. Given that we have a 250-year supply of coal in the United States, it is a critical piece of our efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil," U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL) said.
Illinois is among the leading states competing for this coal plant of tomorrow, which will use coal gasification technology to produce 275 megawatts of electric power, as well as hydrogen for fuel cells and other industrial uses. Because capture of carbon dioxide is critical to FutureGen’s success, analysts selected the final sites based on major factors related to the underlying geology, water availability and other technical requirements set forth by the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, which is developing the facility for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Since the two states share the same coal basin, Gov. Blagojevich and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December stating that Illinois’ strong financial support for coal development, as well as its appealing geologic features, make the state the ideal host for the federally supported project, while Illinois supports carbon dioxide sequestration projects related to FutureGen in Indiana.
“FutureGen’s placement in the Illinois basin is the ultimate goal of our partnership, so this step is good progress. Of course, we are encouraged by the Marshall site, near the Indiana border, as being the most advantageous location,” Gov. Daniels said.
Members of the FutureGen Alliance represent the largest energy companies in the United States, plus a major energy company in China and the nation of India. Among its major goals, FutureGen seeks to show how carbon dioxide from the process of coal gasification can be injected into and stored harmlessly in deep underground formations of rock, sand and salt water.
At each of these Illinois sites, public information meetings, co-sponsored by DCEO and local partners, were held so that people could ask questions about the research facility and show that the project was welcomed in their communities.
“Illinois has been laying the groundwork for FutureGen since 2003, and we sorted through literally hundreds of very good development sites throughout the state. It casts no negative reflection on any of them that they were eliminated by the super-specific, highly scientific guidelines under which we have been forced to proceed,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said. “Illinois is sitting on a vast natural resource, with coal reserves that can produce more energy than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. But to take full advantage of this resource, we must focus on the development of clean coal technology, particularly coal gasification, which is exactly what we are doing here in Illinois and why landing FutureGen is so critical to our efforts.”