July 20, 2006
Politics won't have role in FutureGen site selection
By Otto Kreisher
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON – The industry-government coalition planning to
build a revolutionary clean-coal power plant will announce its
short list of potential sites next week, FutureGen Alliance
executive Michael Mudd said Wednesday.
Two Ohio sites, in Tuscarawas and Meigs counties, are among 12
locations in seven states that have been proposed for the
estimated $1 billion plant, which will seek to make coal
gasification technology more efficient, more economical and nearly
free of potentially harmful air emissions.
Mudd and FutureGen technical advisors briefed reporters on the
selection process after similar briefings for congressional aides.
Mudd declined to say how many sites would be on the reduced list,
although alliance officials earlier suggested that it would be
limited to three to five locations.
Selection for the FutureGen plant would bring the chosen
location an estimated 1,300 temporary construction jobs and about
150 long-term research and operating positions, plus associated
Announcement of the finalists next Tuesday at the National
Press Club would start a 12-month process in which the remaining
sites would be subjected to a “rigorous, transparent and fair”
evaluation based on three levels of criteria, said Kenneth
Humphreys, a Battele official who is one of FutureGen’s technical
During that year, the Department of Energy also would review
each of the potential sites for compliance with the National
Environmental Policy Act so that the winner could be cleared for
construction of the FutureGen plant, Humphreys said.
Mudd and Humphreys stressed that the evaluation of the
candidate sites would be conducted by engineers and scientists on
purely objective, technical grounds, free from political
The FutureGen Alliance is a not-for-profit consortium of some
of the largest coal producers and users in the world. The 10
alliance members include power plant operators from the United
States, Great Britain, Australia and China. South Korea and India
recently agreed to contribute to the project, Mudd said. The
alliance members have committed a total of $250 million toward a
partnership with the Energy Department to build and operate an
innovative coal gasification plant as a research and development
The technology developed at the plant would be available
worldwide to contribute to the clean and efficient production of
electricity by using coal, which is one of the world’s most
abundant form of fossil fuel.
A key attribute of the FutureGen project is the plan to
permanently capture deep underground the carbon dioxide the plant
would produce, dramatically reducing the emission of a gas some
scientists consider a major factor in global warming.
Because of that plan, a critical requirement of the plant site
would be a subterranean geological structure able to absorb up to
30 million tons of carbon dioxide, Humphrey said.
Although abandoned mines or oil and gas deposits could meet
that need, Humphreys said the best condition would be a highly
saline water table several thousand feet underground with an
impervious rock layer above it.
The potential sites will be evaluated on three tiers of
criteria, Humphreys said.
The essential “qualifying criteria” include an area of at least
200 acres of mainly level terrain, free of any hazardous materials
or environmentally sensitive conditions, such as wetlands,
endangered species or parks, with access to water for cooling and
to good transportation and away from any drinking water supply.
The land should be readily available for development without
complicated local or state environmental approval requirements.
The second tier of “scoring criteria” would be used to rate
qualifying sites. It could include the overall size and condition
of the site and availability of the other necessary attributes
beyond qualifying criteria.
The final tier is “best value criteria,” which could include
financial incentives provided by the state or locality, ready
access to power grids for distribution of the 275 megawatts of
power the plant would produce and a potential market for the
massive amounts of hydrogen that would be a by-product of the coal
The Tuscarawas County site offered is in the southern part of
the county off Rt. 36 between Gnadenhutten and Port Washington.
Other candidate sites are four in central Illinois coal
country, two locations in Texas oil fields and one site each in
coal-producing areas of West Virginia, Kentucky, North Dakota and