Friday, November 19, 2010

Europe’s Failures Jeopardize Illinois Carbon Capture Project

Reversals of fortune as far away as Finland could jeopardize the future of Illinois’ FutureGen 2.0 project, to which the Obama administration pledged $1 billion in stimulus funds as recently as last August. FutureGen 2.0 began as planned construction of a ground up new 275 megawatt clean coal power generation facility in Mattoon, under the Bush administration. When the estimated price tag for the coal gasification plant of $950 million more than doubled as construction estimates were finalized, FutureGen 2.0 was revised to revamping Ameren Corporation’s 200 megawatt Meredosia coal fired power facility with advanced combustion techniques, a new boiler, and an air separation unit to capture 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions.

Babcock & Wilcox and a group of energy companies proposed a network of pipelines to deliver the sequestered carbon dioxide to a repository in Mattoon, where it would be stored underground, along with emissions from other plants in the region should the commercial scale carbon capture technology prove successful. Now, the failure of two proposed European commercial scale carbon capture power plant projects suggests the Meredosia project may never come off the drawing boards.

Finland’s Fortum Oyj and its partner Teollisuuden Voima Oyj have both backed out of a proposed 565 megawatt carbon capture project at Meri Pori, Finland, because they say the project presents too many technological and financial risks. Also this month, Royal Dutch Shell dropped a proposal for piping carbon dioxide emissions from its Rotterdam area Pernis refinery to a proposed underground storage facility beneath the small village of Barendrecht in The Netherlands. Citing three years of delays and “the complete lack of local support,” Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Maxime Verhagen announced scrapping of the Barendrecht carbon capture and storage facility.

Last month, Germany’s energy giant E.ON announced it was terminating development plans for carbon capture and sequestration on a commercial scale at its billion and a half megawatt coal fired power plant in Kingsnorth, U.K.

The fact that European technology leaders in industry and government in Finland, Germany, England, and The Netherlands are concluding in rapid succession during the design phase that commercial scale carbon capture and sequestration is not economically viable, combined with Illinois’ own experience of projected cost overruns totaling more than 100% on the original version of FutureGen 2.0, could eventually scotch the Meredosia/Mattoon project, despite political support in both Springfield and Washington, D.C.
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