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Carbon Sequestration in Illinois…maybe…

A site in Illinois’ Morgan County has been selected for future carbon dioxide storage, as part of a Department of Energy funded project to build a near-zero emissions power plant. The plan is to retrofit a coal power plant in Meredosia to use oxy-combustion (a nifty term for using burning with pure oxygen instead of air), which makes separating carbon dioxide from exhaust fumes much easier than with conventional technology. Once separated, the carbon dioxide will be fed through pipes to a porous layer of sandstone half a mile underneath Morgan County, 30 or so miles west of Springfield.

Now, you might have heard of a similar project before– it was called FutureGen, and it was cancelled during the Bush administration due to excessive costs. This project, called FutureGen 2.0, is its successor, and while the selection of a sequestration site shows promise for round two, its completion still depends on maintaining political support.

Senator Dick Durbin called the announcement on Monday a sign the project is on track, but, as the Chicago Tribune reported

“Monday’s decision doesn’t mean the on-again, off-again FutureGen project will be built. It merely signals the Department of Energy to start doing environmental reviews of the site while the power plant’s owner, St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. continues analyzing the viability of refitting its plant with what’s call oxy-combustion technology.”

Even the president of the Illinois Coal Association is saying that he’s “not totally optimistic.”

And of course, all of this dodges the question of whether this is a cost -effective and environmentally sound plan. Building the facility will result in an estimated 2,000 construction and service sector jobs, a huge boon to a county that has lost about a thousand jobs since 2004, and the electricity it generates would emit less carbon dioxide in the short term (carbon sequestration facilities typically assume a slow leakage rate, so that perhaps all of the carbon dioxide would escape on a thousand year timescale).

But more importantly, would you choose to buy electricity produced this way?

For more info:
FutureGen Alliance selects Morgan County, Ill. as the site for the FutureGen 2.0 carbon storage facility , futuregenalliance.org
Future Gen to Store Carbon Dioxide in Morgan County Chicago Tribune
NYTimes Green blog’s coverage of announcement

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