E.ON's US unit has committed $25 million to join the FutureGen Alliance, a non-profit consortium of global electric utilities and coal companies working with the US Department of Energy to develop the world's first coal-fired, near zero-emission power plant.

E.ON US will represent all of the company’s market units worldwide in the alliance. It becomes the 11th member of the FutureGen Alliance, which is facilitating the design, construction and operation of the first near zero-emission coal-fueled power plant and hydrogen production facility with integrated carbon capture sequestration.

The nominal 275MW FutureGen plant will commercially produce electricity for about 150,000 average US homes. The plant will gasify the coal through a process that will convert the coal’s carbon to synthesis gas comprised of mostly hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The synthesis gas will react with steam to produce additional hydrogen and a concentrated stream of carbon dioxide.

The hydrogen will be used as a clean fuel in applications such as electricity generation in turbines or fuel cells, or hybrid combinations of these technologies. The captured carbon dioxide will be separated from the hydrogen and permanently stored in deep saline formations, unmineable coal seams, depleted oil and gas formations, or other geologic formations.

Current estimates state that 90% of the total carbon dioxide produced by the plant will be captured initially, and with advanced technologies, this type of plant may eventually be able to capture up to 100% of carbon dioxide emissions.

The new FutureGen plant will also lay the groundwork for developing similar power plants throughout the world.

E.ON US’s participation adds to the alliance’s expertise and demonstrates growing international cooperation to meet long-term global energy challenges through clean energy from coal, commented FutureGen Alliance chairman Dr Charles Goodman, who is also senior vice president of generation policy for Southern Company.

Other members of the alliance include American Electric Power, the China Huaneng Group, Rio Tinto Energy America, PPL, and Southern Company.