The US Energy Department has signed an agreement with an international consortium to build a 950 million-dollar prototype for a new generation of coal-fired power plants that remove pollutants including carbon dioxide and produce hydrogen as well as electricity.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the plant, called FutureGen, is scheduled to be built by 2012.
If it works, the report said, it will further one of the Bush administration's main policy goals: to reduce reliance on imported oil and natural gas by using technology to clean up and increase the use of coal, a fuel the United States has in abundance.
A group of eight companies, including major coal and electricity producers, will contribute 250 million dollars toward the project, according to the report.
The report said that the plant will produce 250 megawatts of electricity -- the output of a medium-sized power plant -- as well as hydrogen, which could be sold to power future cars and trucks or sent to oil refineries to upgrade petroleum products.
And some of the pollutants removed from the coal, which would be gasified, may also be sold as by-products.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which cause acid rain and urban smog, can be turned into fertilizers and "soil enhancers." The plant will separate carbon dioxide, a gas thought to be one of the major causes of global warming, and inject it into deep underground rock formations, said the report, adding that the project will test it to determine if it will remain there indefinitely.
"No other power plant in the world has been built with this capability," a draft version of the department's announcement, expected Tuesday, was quoted as saying.
The companies backing the project, called the FutureGen Industrial Alliance, will pick a site to construct the facility by 2007, the report said.