CHINESE RESEARCH GROUP JOINS FUTUREGEN ALLIANCE

Tamar Hallerman
GHG Monitor
05/04/12

PITTSBURGH—An energy research group funded by the Chinese coal giant Shenhua Group announced here that it is joining the FutureGen Alliance, bringing new membership to an industry consortium that has struggled to attract new members in recent months. In remarks at the Eleventh Annual Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration Conference this week, Mike Davis, president and CEO of the National Institute of Clean and Low Carbon Energy (NICE), a Beijing-based research institute focused on developing advanced coal technologies, said the group is joining the FutureGen Alliance, the nonprofit consortium of industry groups that is helping drive FutureGen 2.0.

Davis said the oxy-combustion research being pursued as part of FutureGen was one of the main reasons why NICE decided to join the group, given the technology’s large potential in China. “The rate at which we need to learn about this technology is so rapid, and any work being done in the industry is worthwhile to take a look at,” he told GHG on the sidelines of the meeting. “We’re interested in the full value chain of oxy-combustion capture systems and how it works overall.” Davis added that NICE will be financially contributing to the Alliance.

‘Global Involvement’

FutureGen Alliance CEO Ken Humphreys said he pursued NICE in part to get more international voices involved with the 200 MW oxy-combustion project slated for western Illinois. “One of the things we’ve always prided the project on is the global involvement. If CCS is only a U.S. technology, it’s not going to reach its full potential, and the best way for it to achieve its potential is to get global players involved early so that they can take the learnings around the world,” he told GHG this week. “I think NICE really adds a lot to the cache of the project.” NICE is the Alliance’s first new member in months, representing one of the only non-western voices involved with the project. Of the eight other Alliance members listed on the consortium’s website, nearly all are coal mining and production companies based in the U.S. and Europe. Current members include CONSOL Energy Inc., Peabody Energy and Rio Tinto.

The Alliance has taken to recruiting new members in recent months as a way to help narrow a roughly $350 million budget shortfall between the original cost estimate for the project and a post-Phase I estimate, which listed a revised project cost of $1.65 billion. Humphreys said the Alliance is currently in talks with several different companies to join the consortium. “We have discussions ongoing with a number of different companies, and while I can’t go into the details, we expect to enter the next project phase stronger than we are today,” he said.

FutureGen 2.0 now faces a critical couple of months as project partners try to move it forward from a period of relative stagnation and rebuilding and onward to Phase II work. Several project officials said lawyers for the Alliance are finalizing the language for the Alliance to formally take over Unit Four of Ameren Energy Resource’s Meredosia coal- and oil-fired power plant. Meanwhile, the Alliance is planning on finishing up its application for Phase II funding from the Department of Energy, they said, while engineering work continues to try and find cost savings for the project.