Ameren power line works around FutureGen clean coal project

A workaround for the CO2 disposal field for the planned FutureGen 2.0 coal project in Illinois is one of the features of a new Ameren Corp. (NYSE: AEE) power line project approved Aug. 20 by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois (ATXI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Ameren, received approval from the ICC to build the majority of its nearly 400-mile, approximately $1.1bn Illinois Rivers transmission project. The project consists of a new 345-kV transmission line crossing the Mississippi River from Missouri near Quincy, Ill., and continuing east across Illinois to the Indiana border. This is the largest transmission project in the corporation’s history and the largest single investment by the corporation since the early 1980s, Ameren said in an Aug. 21 statement.

Right-of-way acquisitions for the approved portions of the project are expected to begin immediately with a full range of construction activities in 2014.

“We are pleased with the ICC’s decision confirming that the Illinois Rivers project is necessary and the best approach to addressing the reliability needs of customers and ensuring the development of an efficient electricity market. This project will help fuel the Illinois economy and provide customers access to a variety of energy sources, including wind energy,” said Maureen Borkowski, president and CEO of ATXI.

The ICC agreed with and supported the need for this new line and granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity for seven of nine proposed segments on the route and three of nine proposed bulk substations. ATXI is moving forward on the approved portions of the project. The ICC said the remaining two segments were not approved due to lack of time and evidence to determine the most cost-effective route. ATXI plans to request a rehearing to determine the appropriate routing of the two segments and the location and need for the substations that were not approved.

The project previously received approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).

Initial power line route was an issue for FutureGen

During the proceeding, ATXI noted that its Primary Route is located near the planned location of the FutureGen CO2 pipeline and storage facility. The FutureGen project is essentially a repowering of one unit of the shut Meredosia power plant. However, a new Stipulated Route alleviates this concern entirely. ATXI suggested that there is no other record evidence concerning the proximity of any of the routes proposed for the Meredosia–Pawnee portion of the project to existing or planned development that would favor adopting another route over the Stipulated Route.

The FutureGen Industrial Alliance noted during this proceeding that its witness, Kenneth Humphreys, stated that overlapping construction schedules for the Illinois Rivers Project and the FutureGen 2.0 clean coal project could present unavoidable conflicts for the projects since the Primary Route for this segment and the FutureGen 2.0 project’s CO2 pipeline and storage facility follow the same route in eastern Morgan County, the commission said in its Aug. 20 order. Although ATXI undoubtedly will coordinate with landowners and other projects, FutureGen said it believes the overlapping schedule and routes of the Primary Route and the FutureGen 2.0 project would lead to unavoidable, and potentially unresolvable, conflicts. FutureGen believes that ATXI’s comprehensive route siting analysis shows that the Stipulated Route best reduces the potential for environmental impacts.

In a major step forward for the FutureGen 2.0 coal-fired project, the ICC on June 26 issued an order that essentially deals with issues about how electricity out of the project will be sold and paid for.

The FutureGen Industrial Alliance on Feb. 19 filed with the commission a report that said, among other things, that the project is targeted for completion in mid 2017. The FutureGen alliance is a non-profit corporation engaged by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under a federal financial assistance award to implement the DOE’s FutureGen 2.0 Program. The FutureGen 2.0 Program will develop, repower, own and operate the Meredosia Energy Center and the integrated CO2 pipeline and storage facility in Morgan County, Ill. Alliance members include U.S. coal producers Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) and Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU).

FutureGen 2.0 was initiated in October 2010 by DOE, which has committed more than $1bn in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds and other appropriations for research, development and demonstration activities of oxy-combustion and CO2 capture, transportation, and storage.

The oxy-combustion project will retrofit and repower with a near-zero emissions oxy-combustion process utilizing the Unit 4 steam turbine generator, certain coal-based infrastructure associated with Units 1-3, and some of the site’s common facilities. The project will use a blend of high-sulfur Illinois bituminous coal and low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal and have a gross output capacity of 176.3 MW.

The CO2 storage project will transport the captured CO2 about 30 miles in a newly-constructed pipeline from the Meredosia site to the proposed storage facility in Morgan County. The CO2 storage facility is being designed to accept approximately 22 million tonnes of CO2 over a 20-year period from the oxy-combustion project.

New line touted as key pathway for renewable energy

The transmission project that ATXI seeks to construct consists primarily of a new 345 kV transmission line spanning from the Mississippi River near Quincy, Ill., to the Indiana border near Terre Haute, Ind. This primary portion of the project runs through parts of Adams, Brown, Christian, Clark, Coles, Edgar, Macon, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Sangamon, Scott, and Shelby counties.

Another significant portion of the project is a new 345 kV transmission line that runs from Ipava, Ill., to Meredosia, Ill., where it connects with the previously described transmission line. The Ipava to Meredosia segment runs through parts of Brown, Cass, Fulton, Morgan, and Schuyler counties. The third significant segment of the project wraps around the West and South sides of Champaign in Champaign County. This 345 kV transmission line terminates at Rising, Ill., on one end and at Sidney, Ill., on the other end. This part of the project is not connected to any other part of the project. ATXI refers to the portions of this project collectively as the Illinois Rivers Project.

The Illinois Rivers Project consists of approximately 375 miles of new 345 kV transmission lines, nine new or expanded substations, and six 345/138 kV transformers.

ATXI told the commission that the proposed transmission lines and associated facilities are necessary in order to provide adequate, reliable, and efficient service to consumers. The Illinois Rivers Project is also, ATXI contends, the least cost means of satisfying the service needs of transmission customers within the MISO footprint. ATXI states that the Illinois Rivers Project represents four of six projects in Illinois that the MISO Board of Directors approved in December 2011 as part of its Multi-Value Project (MVP) Portfolio. MISO identified the four projects as: Palmyra Tap-Quincy-Meredosia-Ipava and Meredosia-Pawnee; Pawnee-Pana; Pana-Mt. Zion-Kansas-Sugar Creek; and Sidney-Rising. The municipality names represent the locations of substations. ATXI said that these four projects will enable the reliable delivery of renewable energy, including wind power, within the MISO footprint.

The ICC in the Aug. 20 order ruled that:

  • the route for the transmission line segment between the Mississippi River and Quincy, Quincy and Meredosia, Meredosia and Ipava, Meredosia and Pawnee, Mt. Zion and Kansas, Kansas and the Indiana state line; and Sidney and Rising should be approved;
  • the route for the transmission line segment between Pawnee and Pana and between Pana and Mt. Zion should not be approved in this proceeding;
  • the proposed new or expanded substations at Quincy, Meredosia, and Pawnee should be approved; and
  • the proposed new or expanded substations at Ipava, Pana, Mt. Zion, Kansas, Sidney, and Rising should not be approved in this proceeding.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.