FutureGen officials have provided a list of frequently answered questions and responses:
Selecting a preferred site and alternative sites has moved on an expedited schedule. The expedited selection was required to help secure federal co-funding for the project. This federal funding, coupled with industrial funding, will bring many new jobs to Illinois for decades to come. It will also help turn the host community into a global center for clean energy technology development.
During the expedited selection process we have been uncompromising in holding to high safety and technical standards. The Alliance does recognize that while many citizens support the project, the accelerated schedule has not given all stakeholders as much time as they (and we) would like to learn about the project and become fully comfortable. However, with a site selected, more detail design work can be completed. This will help the Alliance answer more of the community’s questions. Further, in spring 2011, an 18-month Environmental Impact Statement process, run by the Department of Energy will start. This process will include multiple opportunities for public involvement. Also, the environmental permitting process, run by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, will provide opportunities for public involvement. Finally, the first ton of CO2 will not be stored until early 2016. So, while the siting process has moved expeditiously, there is still substantial time for study and public input.
Will Ameren be capturing carbon dioxide at a coal-fueled boiler at the Meredosia power plant or the oil-fueled boiler? Are current coal boilers being retrofitted?
Ameren will replace an existing oil-fueled boiler with an oxy-combustion coal-fueled boiler. This type of upgrade is referred to as a repowering. The new boiler will send steam to an existing steam turbine generator that will produce electricity. The new oxy-combustion coal-fueled boiler will allow for carbon dioxide capture.
What is the composition of the CO2 from the power plant in Meredosia that would be stored?
The CO2 stream will be at least 97 percent (by weight) pure CO2. The other 3 percent (by weight) are safe inerts, such as argon and oxygen. Trace contaminants will be cleaned up to levels below safe drinking water standards.
Will CO2 from sources other than the Meredosia power plant be stored at the site?
The legal agreement between the FutureGen Alliance and the U.S. Department of Energy is to store at least 1.3MMT/year of CO2 from Ameren’s Meredosia plant for 30 years. This is a total of 39.0MMT of CO2. In addition, the Alliance has been asked to study the appropriateness of accepting CO2 from other sources. Examples of other sources might be CO2 from another power plant or an ethanol plant. This is a study of options. Any future expansion would be contingent upon landowner agreement and additional, extensive permitting. If expansion occurred, it would not necessarily be immediately adjacent to the original storage site. It is difficult to conceive of any expansion within the current decade. Finally, there are no funds allocated for expansion. The Alliance’s primary focus is on Meredosia’s CO2.
Will the roads be improved?
The storage site operations will not generate substantial traffic. The visitor, research, and training facilities will generate more vehicle traffic just like any new business does. The Alliance will work with local authorities to determine what, if any, road improvements need to be made to support construction and operation of the storage facility and other support facilities. This will be a specific topic addressed as part of environmental studies and there will be an opportunity for public comment.
Is visitor center located on the site, in a local town, or elsewhere?
The visitor center, research, and training facilities will be located in the same county as the storage site operations. The Alliance will work with county and local officials on how to best design these facilities for maximum benefit.
How can we be assured that the Alliance won’t change the rules as you go and “run over the little guy”?
There is a saying that “past performance is the best predictor of future behavior”. The Alliance has been working on FutureGen and in Illinois for many years. We’ve always kept our agreements with the local community, state, and contractors. We all live in a changing world. In the past when something changed—sometimes beyond our control–we’ve been honest about the reasons for the change. We have also been extremely sensitive to community and landowner concerns. We cannot address every concern immediately, but over time we work to address all we can. We suggest that you talk to community leaders in Mattoon (the prior host site) or government staff from the state of Illinois. They will tell you that the Alliance has always acted with integrity. This is not to say that we are perfect. If we make a mistake, we’ll admit it and correct it. As added assurance, the Environmental Protection Agency recently issued major new regulations governing CO2 storage that protect the community. Our goal is to advance clean coal technology, and we can’t accomplish that goal without being a good partner with the community.
Health and Safety
Is CO2 toxic or flammable?
Will security be increased at the storage site when it is accepting the CO2?
The storage site will be a secure site whether it is accepting CO2 or not. Further, its operations are so quiet, most people will not even realize it is operating.
What are the size and the operating pressure of the pipeline?
The operating pressure of the pipeline will not exceed 2200 psig. The pipeline will be approximately ten inches in diameter. Final engineering will determine the precise size.
Have pipelines been safely operated before?
Yes, there are over 3,600 miles of CO2 pipelines in the United States that have operated safely for decades.
How close could the pipeline be to my house?
While safety regulations would allow it to be closer, the project has adopted a minimum design distance of 150feet. Also, the pipeline is buried a minimum of four feet underground, which provides an added safety factor.
In Weyburn, Canada, there are claims of a CO2 leak. How is FutureGen different than what is happening in Weyburn, Canada?
The FutureGen and the Weyburn projects are substantially different from each other. Further, extensive scientific research has been conducted at the Weyburn site and no results have been found that would support the recent claims that CO2 injected as part of the enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project has migrated to the surface (Source: Petroleum Research
Technology Center Response to Petro-Find Geochem Ltd , 2011. The phenomena, which was claimed to be a leak, can be explained by near surface processes including microbial generation of soil CO2 and methane (PTRC, 2011) or other factors. The Alliance will continue to watch the Weyburn project closely. If there are any lessons-learned from it that we should apply to FutureGen 2.0, we will.
FutureGen 2.0 carbon storage is very different. It will take place in the Mt. Simon Sandstone, a deep saline reservoir more than three quarters of a mile beneath the surface.
This rock formation is more than 850 feet thick and is overlain by multiple layers of impermeable shale, which act as seals for the stored CO2. Very few wells have been drilled into the Mt. Simon Sandstone in Illinois due to the lack of fossil fuel resources in the formation. Oil and natural gas deposits in Illinois occur at much shallower depths in rocks that are hundreds of millions of years old. By contrast, the Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring & Storage Project is taking place in an active oil field using CO2 for EOR. At the Weyburn site, there are over 800 oil wells and about 200 injection wells (not including over 150 horizontal wells), which have reached the oil-producing beds.
Project documents say the nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury are removed at the power plant. Exactly where do they go? How much remains in the C02? What are the risks of cross-contamination?
Nitrogen oxide is an emission associated with conventional coal-fueled power plants. One benefit of the new oxy-combustion process is that coal is burned in the presence of oxygen instead of the conventional approach of burning it in the presence of air. Air includes nitrogen, which then forms nitrogen oxide. Using oxygen, instead of air, means that the formation of nitrogen oxides is avoided. Sulfur dioxide is removed from the flue gas stream.
Typically the sulfur, in one of several chemical forms, is sold to the chemical industry for reuse. Particulate matter, which is essentially fine dust, is taken to a permitted landfill.
Mercury is removed and taken to a special disposal site. Real-time monitoring of the CO2 stream before it exits the plant will automatically shut-down the pipeline if the CO2 composition does not stay within acceptable limits. We require that trace contaminants like mercury be less than what EPA normally allows in safe drinking water. This prevents cross-contamination.
What about micro-fissures and leaching of the CO2 through those?
The CO2 is stored more than three quarters of a mile below the surface with many layers of rock above it, including an impermeable caprock. Similar formations have held oil and gas in place for hundreds of millions of years with no upward migration. Further, the injection of CO2 will occur at a rate well below any pressure that would cause micro-fissures in the formation.
What property does the project want to use?
The Alliance seeks to buy the very deep subsurface rights from individual landowners. The geologic formations of interest contain no minerals and no water that is suitable for drinking or irrigation. These formations are currently unused for any purpose. Surface landowners will be able to continue to farm or otherwise use their surface property. The Alliance will also want to procure small amounts of surface property or easements for wellheads, pipelines, and small support facilities.
How much will landowners be compensated?
Specific amounts will be part of a contract with individual landowners. Overall, the Alliance has set aside more than $10 million for equitable landowner compensation.
Is the federal government going to exercise eminent domain to take property?
Would the state government use eminent domain to gain pipeline easements?
Perhaps; however, it is the Alliance’s desire to negotiate easements for a fair market price. We will attempt to locate pipeline easements along existing utility corridors where possible in order to have minimum impact on landowners. Farming can continue right above the pipeline after construction. During construction, farmers would be paid full fair market price for any crops that cannot be grown on the easement. Thus, for less work, the farmer will generate the same revenue. Also, an additional payment will be made to landowners for the easement itself.
In the future, could the pipeline be switched to other uses, such as natural gas.
No, in the easement agreement we will restrict the use of the easement to a CO2 pipeline.
How large are the monitoring wells and where will they be placed?
There is flexibility in terms of where the monitoring wells are placed. The Alliance plans to work with the landowner to locate these wells where they will cause minimum impact to the landowner. During the drilling of the wells an area approximately 500 feet by 500 feet will be required. After drilling the footprint will be reduced to approximately 150 feet by 150 feet or less. Periodic access to the site will be needed to service the well. Arrangement will be made with landowners to assure minimum impact on farming or other activities around these wells.
If a problem occurs, are landholders responsible?
No. The landowner and local community carry no financial responsibility or liability.
How are the community and landowners protected from financial loss?
The project is being designed with a safety-first approach, which makes it a very low probability that there will be problems. Should a problem occur, four tiers of liability protection will be in place. The first are the project’s cash resources. The second is a major industrial insurance policy. The third tier, is a project-funded trust fund. The fourth and final tier is a state-supported liability backstop.
Would federal government statutes exempt the project from the financial responsibility for liability?
No. We are aware of no law that would provide such exemptions. In fact, just the opposite, as part of the Alliance’s contractual agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy, the Alliance agreed to indemnify and hold harmless the U.S. Department of Energy.
Given the current fiscal condition of the State of Illinois, how much support can the state really provide? Will they purchase the insurance policy mentioned?
The State of Illinois has been a strong supporter of the project. However, the Alliance is not asking the state for financial support. The Alliance will purchase a major industrial insurance policy.