Home / FAQs
Why is the project moving so quickly?
In addition to private sector funds, the project is receiving federal funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This Act requires projects to move quickly to stimulate job creation and economic growth. FutureGen has been uncompromising in adhering to high safety and technical standards. With a power generation station and a site selected, more detailed design work can be completed and this will help the Alliance answer more of the community’s questions. The Department of Energy’s 18-month environmental review process and the Environmental Protection Agency’s permitting process will provide further opportunities for public involvement.
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?
The Alliance will replace an existing boiler with oxy-combustion technology. 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 project’s primary focus is on Meredosia’s CO2. The legal agreement between the FutureGen Alliance and the U.S. Department of Energy is to store at least 1.3 million metric tons of CO2 per year for 30 years. Any future expansion would be contingent upon landowner agreement and additional, extensive permitting.
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.
What is new about the FutureGen project?
Each component of the FutureGen project (i.e., the power plant, the pipeline, and the storage site) has been demonstrated individually at various scales. What is new is the integration of these component pieces in a single project and learning how to efficiently operate the system, keeping clean power prices as low as possible.
Pipeline – General
Are other carbon dioxide pipelines operating?
For nearly 40 years, oil service companies have piped carbon dioxide to oil fields to enhance oil recovery, the most common route being from Colorado to Texas. The U.S. has at least 100 such projects and over 4,500 miles of carbon dioxide pipelines. Companies have injected over 11 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide since the 1970s utilizing these pipelines. (FutureGen will pipe and store only a tiny fraction of that amount.) In addition, there are many additional carbon dioxide pipelines in other countries.
The United States has over a century of experience in pipeline technology. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that in the United States there are over 2 million miles of natural gas pipelines. These pipelines have an excellent safety record. Unlike natural gas, carbon dioxide is not flammable and presents no explosion hazard.
How big is the pipeline?
The FutureGen pipeline will be a 10-inch or 12-inch diameter line and is not in the category of a trunk line. By comparison, the Rocky Mountain Express high pressure natural gas pipeline that recently passed through Morgan County is a trunk line and approximately 42 inches in diameter.
What will keep the pipeline from being hit?
The depth of the pipeline protects the pipeline from farming activities and many typical excavations. State and federal regulations and those contained in agreements that must be signed with the State in order to secure the pipeline Certificate of Authority contain extensive safety mandates. These include modern pipeline location indicators at property boundaries and participation in the Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators (J.U.L.I.E.) system. Illinois law requires all persons digging to contact the system at least 48 hours prior to digging.
In the rare event a pipeline were hit and punctured, the decrease in pressure would be immediately detected by pressure monitors in the pipeline. Placement of carbon dioxide into the pipeline would automatically cease and the shut-off valves along the pipeline route engaged. Also, carbon dioxide is not flammable.
What are the safety protections?
The FutureGen carbon dioxide pipeline design includes a leak detection sensitivity system. If a leak is detected, the mainline block valves (MLBVs) would shut automatically and virtually instantaneously, isolating the damaged pipeline segment and preventing the flow of carbon dioxide from the power plant and backflow from the injection well. The maximum amount of carbon dioxide that could escape before the leak was stopped would be limited to the amount of carbon dioxide contained within the pipeline between the MLBVs. Based on the design, the maximum distance between MLBVs for the Morgan County site will be 10 miles; a 10-mile pipeline segment will contain a maximum of 18 mmscf of carbon dioxide, which would vent harmlessly into the air. Depending on the pipeline damage scenario, the volume released could be significantly lower.
In a report to Congress in 2008 by the Congressional Research Service stated the following concerning the carbon dioxide pipeline safety, “According to U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety statistics, there were 12 leaks from carbon dioxide pipelines reported from 1986 through 2006 — none resulting in injuries to people.” The same report stated, “As of 2008 there were 3,600 miles of carbon dioxide pipeline operating in the United States.” This demonstrates the effectiveness of the nation’s pipeline regulations and the high level of reliability in nation’s carbon dioxide pipelines.
The injection wells are at the one end of the pipeline. Monitoring and controls will be in place at the injection wells. These controls provide for automatic cutoffs that will stop carbon dioxide injection if a problem is detected. Here is a technical explanation:
Alarms and Automatic Surface Shut-Off Systems:
Automatic surface shut-off systems have been included in the system design. In summary, the following two parameters will be monitored for automatic shutdown of the injection system:
Surface over pressure – The automatic shutdown alarm for the surface injection pressure will be selected to ensure that injection pressure does not exceed safe injection pressure.
Low annulus fluid pressure – The automatic shutdown alarm for the annulus fluid pressure will be selected to ensure that the pressure appropriately exceeds the operating injection pressure.
If either of these parameters enters its individual alarm state, the injection of carbon dioxide will be stopped by closing the main wellhead valves. Other equipment shutdown sequences will follow this action, such as the shutdown of the booster pumps. (It is also likely that other pipeline block valves and blowdown valves will be actuated as well).
What if there is a leak?
Human beings breath carbon dioxide in and out constantly in the natural environment. Thus, it is not a dangerous gas and it is not flammable. In 2009, a Scientific American series on carbon sequestration said this about the risks:
“Pressurized [carbon dioxide] gas escaping from a well head or crack simply mixes rapidly with the atmosphere, presenting no danger, much as the use of a fire extinguisher is not hazardous.”
“For example, prospectors in Utah drilling for natural gas in 1936 accidentally created a carbon dioxide geyser. It still erupts a few times a day as pressure builds but is ‘so unhazardous that it’s a tourist attraction, not a risk’ says hydrologist Sally Benson, director of the global climate and energy project at Stanford University. In fact, air concentrations of carbon dioxide have to build to more than 10 percent to be hazardous, which is difficult to achieve, according to modeling from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).”
It is important to keep in mind that all the carbon dioxide from the Meredosia plant, prior to FutureGen’s sequestration project, was simply emitted directly into the atmosphere at the plant.
Will the pipeline be fenced or marked?
The pipeline will not be fenced. Once complete the pipeline will be inconspicuous and will not interfere with agricultural uses. The location of the pipeline will be marked as required by law. Location markers are generally on the boundaries of tracts and do not present an inconvenience to farming or other activities.
How deep will the pipeline be placed?
The FutureGen pipeline will adhere to guidelines developed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, with substantial input from the Illinois Farm Bureau, to assure the pipeline is compatible with farming. The minimum burial depth is 4 feet within Morgan County. However, on agricultural land it is required that the pipeline depth is at least 5 feet deep. The pipeline will often be deeper when crossing under obstacles such as roads.
How will the top soil and drainage tile be protected?
An Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement entered into between the Illinois Department of Agriculture contains detailed procedures to assure protection of top soil and all drainage tile systems. Click here to view the agreement.
Will the landowner be paid for damages caused by the pipeline construction?
The Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement and the Settlement Agreement provide for full reimbursement for growing crops, fertilizer and lime applications, temporary reduction in soil productivity, timber, and soil conservation practices (such as terraces, grassed waterways, and critical areas seeding). For croplands, the minimum damages payment is $8,932 per acre payable over nine years as set forth in paragraph 1 of the Settlement Agreement.
Damage payments are in addition to the payment a landowner is entitled to receive for granting the easement.
How long will it take to build the pipeline?
On a typical tract of land, pipeline construction should take from four to five months, subject to weather and other factors. This begins with the surveying and staking of the easement corridor, continues through the construction of the pipeline and concludes with the restoration of the entire construction area.
Pipeline – Compensation to Landowners
When will negotiations begin with landowners to acquire easements for the pipeline?
Appraisers will start viewing landowners’ property in early May with completion a month or so later. The appraiser will assess the value of easement where the Alliance desires to bury the pipeline. After the initial review by an appraiser, a landowner can expect a written offer from an Alliance land agent in approximately 60 days.
Will there be additional compensation for aboveground structures that will be located on landowner property at safety/maintenance locations?
Yes, negotiations for the placement and compensation for safety/maintenance structures located along the route will be treated separately from negotiations for the easements required for the buried pipeline. We will work with landowners to discuss site-specific details that may require special attention during siting of those structures.
Will landowners be compensated if the pipeline fails at any time during operations and the Alliance has to perform repairs?
The potential for a pipeline failure is remote. However, the Alliance would cover all costs associated with pipeline repair throughout its operation. Further, the Alliance will provide compensation to landowners for any crop or other physical property impacts associated with the pipeline repair.
Who fixes any damage to drainage tile systems or other property features during construction?
The Alliance pipeline contractor will repair any damages caused to drainage tile systems or other property features during construction. An independent agricultural inspector will help identify any damage and ensure adequate repairs are made.
How did you come up with the dollar value associated with crop and productivity damages to be paid on agricultural land?
Crop and productivity payments for pipeline projects are based on estimates of potential losses, taking into account various factors, such as the historical productivity of land in the area. For this project, the Alliance consulted with the Illinois Farm Bureau and determined that the crop and productivity payments recently paid on a much larger natural gas pipeline project in Morgan and neighboring counties would provide landowners with generous financial protection from crop and productivity losses caused by pipeline installation. The crop and productivity payments total a minimum of $8,932 per disturbed agricultural acre. Special factors, such as the pipeline easement temporarily restricting other plantable acreage may warrant additional compensation.
Will the crop and productivity mitigation payments be made to each landowner whether or not there is damage?
Crop mitigation payments apply only to agricultural land. The payments will be made to each landowner even if there is minimal crop or productivity damages.
Will landowners be compensated for having to reduce crop row lengths due to the siting of the pipeline?
The appraiser will determine the reduction in value of property due to the pipeline, including temporary reduction in crop row lengths during the year of construction.
Pipeline – Siting
Will there be a chance for pipeline designers/engineers to work with landowners to adjust the pipeline route to avoid tile systems, water lines or other special features that should be avoided?
Yes. Siting of the current route was done as part of a desktop study (i.e., using maps and other publicly available data). This initial study did not identify any special features of specific parcels of land or involve visiting parcels. The Alliance will work with landowners to identify special features such as tile systems and water lines that should be avoided before a final pipeline route is determined.
Is the final pipeline route determined by the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
No. The EIS prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy examines the potential environmental impacts (such as to cultural resources and biological resources) of the FutureGen 2.0 Project as a whole, including the proposed CO2 pipeline. DOE examines a wide corridor into which the pipeline could be constructed and also specifically identifies the Alliance’s current proposed route. However, the EIS will not be the basis of the final pipeline routing decision.
How close can the pipeline be to my house?
Under federal law, the pipeline can be no closer than 50 feet from any occupied structure. However, the Alliance has proposed to increase that distance to 150 feet, subject to negotiations with individual landowners.
Pipeline – Design and Construction
Are the landowners expected to be present during construction to prevent damage to tiles and other important features?
No. Landowners are not expected to be present during construction. Primary responsibility for avoiding damage is the responsibility of the Alliance and its construction contractors. Although, an independent agricultural inspector will monitor the pipeline construction to watch for damage and ensure any that occurs is properly remedied. Landowners can assist the Alliance in protecting landowner property by ensuring that the Alliance is aware of any important or sensitive features on the property that should be avoided during construction, even if those features will not be directly impacted by the pipeline.
If damage to the tiles occurs during construction can landowners use their own tile contractor to fix it or does the Alliance hire tile contractors?
The pipeline construction contractor will be responsible for reconnecting any field tile that is cut. They will most likely employ a tiling contractor to do those repairs. The landowner and their representative (e.g., their preferred tiling contractor) will be permitted to inspect those repairs before the backfill is placed.
Can the pipeline be installed more deeply than the typical five feet on agricultural land?
Yes, the depth of the pipeline can be adjusted during the negotiations with landowners when there is a good reason to do so (e.g., current or future drain tile conflicts).
Will there be multiple starting points for pipeline construction or would you go from end to end?
This decision will be made as part of the final design. Most likely construction will go from one end to the other.
How will you determine the depth of the topsoil at any given location along the pipeline route?
As described in Section 2A of the Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement (AIMA) co-signed by the Alliance and the Illinois Department of Agriculture and developed with the input of the Illinois Farm Bureau Federation, the topsoil depth will be determined by a properly qualified agricultural inspector, soil scientist or soil technician who will mark the route every 200 feet with the depth of topsoil to be removed.
How will you remove the topsoil?
Topsoil will be removed with specialized equipment used in pipeline construction. The topsoil will be excavated and held separately from the subsoil along the pipeline. As stated in Section 2.E of the AIMA, the stockpiled subsoil will be placed back into the trench before replacing the topsoil.
How do you achieve the deep trench?
After the topsoil is stripped the trench will be excavated with a specialized trenching machine.
Will we be able to tell how deep the pipeline is at any given location along the route?
The pipeline will be marked along the entire route to show location, however the markers do not include depth information. The pipeline depth will be recorded during construction and provided to the Alliance in an “as-built” survey. The Alliance will make the survey information available to landowners upon request.
What is the expected lifetime of the pipeline?
A pipeline of this type will typically last in excess of 50 years; although, the Alliance does not currently intend to use it that long. An inspection tool, called a “pig” can travel inside the pipeline to check its integrity over its lifetime.
If the pipeline is abandoned, can I remove the portion that is on my property?
Yes, you could remove it from your property. However, given the small diameter of the pipeline (less than 12 inches) and depth, pipelines are not typically removed.
Will you be locating existing fiber optics and other wires prior to construction to avoid damaging them during construction?
Yes, the Alliance will locate fiber optics and all other utilities prior to pipeline construction.
In depth, how close can the pipeline be to existing drainage tile systems?
The pipeline must be installed no shallower than 5-feet in depth and at least 12-inches in depth away from existing drainage tile systems. If you plan to install a drainage tile system in the future, the Alliance will plan for a depth sufficient to allow future tile system installation.
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 CO2?
The new oxy-combustion process will take nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury emissions to near-zero levels. 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. Sulfur is converted to gypsum, which has beneficial agricultural use or may be utilized in wallboard manufacture. Particulate matter will be captured, stabilized and safely stored in a permitted landfill. Mercury is taken to a safe disposal facility.
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.
How does the FutureGen Alliance intend to monitor stored CO2?
Sophisticated modeling will combine our strong knowledge of geologic data with real-time CO2 monitoring at sample wells to continuously monitor and predict CO2 movement. If there is any deviation from our plan, the project will be required to make adjustments to the injection strategy or cease operations.
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. Also, these formations are not used for any other purpose. Landowners will be able to continue to farm or use their surface property. The Alliance will also buy small amounts of surface property or easements for wellheads, pipelines, and small support facilities.
How 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. When the site is accepting CO2, surface rights owners within the storage site will receive royalty payments, which will increase property values directly.
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.
Health and Safety
Is CO2 hazardous or flammable?
No. There are over 3,600 miles of CO2 pipelines in the U.S. that have operated safely for decades. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the CO2 is non-hazardous.
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 12 inches in diameter. Final engineering will determine the precise size.
How close will the pipeline be to my house?
The project has adopted a minimum distance of 150 feet, which is three times the legal requirement. Also, the pipeline is buried a minimum of four feet underground, which provides added safety. In farm areas, the pipeline will be buried at least five feet to allow surface farming to continue.
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.
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 landowner and local community carry no financial responsibility or liability. The project is being designed with a safety-first approach implementing continuous risk mitigation processes. These practices ensure that potential problems are well-understood and reduced to a very low probability. If a problem should occur, several tiers of liability protection will be in place. The first is the project’s cash resources. The second is a major industrial insurance policy. The third tier is a project-funded trust fund.
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.