Obama pulls plug on $1.65 billion carbon-capture project

futuregen coal capture plant

DOE FutureGen concept art c.2007. Credit Wikipedia.

On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it would not be contributing more funds to FutureGen Alliance, a large-scale carbon-capture demonstration project in Illinois.

The alliance was funded by a mix of state, private and federal government money. Cost was estimated at $1.65 billion, with the federal government paying the one billion out of federal stimulus funding. Without the DOE funding, the project is suspended.

"The U.S. Department of Energy has directed the suspension of FutureGen 2.0 project development activities. The DOE has concluded that there is insufficient time to complete the project before federal funding expires in September 2015," announced the CEO of the FutureGen Alliance, Ken Humphreys.

The reason given for the feds pulling out was little return on money spent.

"In order to best protect taxpayer interests, the Department of Energy has initiated a structured closeout of federal support for the project that will help maximize the value of investments to date while minimizing ongoing risks and further costs," DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons said.

The 12-year-old project was kicked off by George W. Bush. The project had several incarnations. The most recent plan was to retrofit a shuttered coal-fired power plant in Meredosia, Illinois, with oxy-combustion generators. Carbon dioxide would then be captured and piped 48KM to underground saline formations. Scientific America says the project would have been "the most expensive and high-profile carbon capture proposals in the world."

About $116 million has been sunk in the project to date. The DOE says there was some benefit.

"While this is an unfortunate outcome, the Department acquired valuable information and tangible benefits from the work accomplished to date. That progress will continue to benefit our broad clean coal portfolio, helping to further the deployment of carbon capture and storage projects and the development of next-generation technologies," Gibbons said.