The Palestine Economic Development Corp. presented the six-member FutureGen Texas Team with the city and county’s site proposal for the FutureGen project during the site visit Wednesday.

After hearing the presentation and before visiting the proposed location, members of the team suggested ways to make the presentation stronger.

“We are not the recommending board,” Dr. Scott Tinker, director for the Bureau of Economic Geology, said. “We want to make the proposal stronger so we can get the best proposal for the state.”

Tinker said had a strong proposal that tackled many, if not all of the technical elements, but what he and other members of the team wanted to see was firm commitments from the companies, governmental agencies and the community.

“We need to have in writing what the people are going to do,” he said. “Letters-of-intent are nice but anyone can say they are going to do something.”

Other team members, including Steve Walden, asked infrastructure questions. He wanted to see the site’s sewer system and stressed the strictness of the federal regulations for an environmental impact study.

“We need a document to secure those studies which have already been done,” Walden said.

Another member wanted to see an engineer’s specification that the infrastructure on the site will indeed work as the presentation suggested and what if any repairs or modifications need to be done to the site?

Others showed interest in the committee which had been formed to further the work on the proposal.

“I want to work with you to make sure we have that firm group in place to help secure the services we need,” Chuck McDonald said. “I want to work with y’all to nail down the local incentives and get it formalized.

Team member Jerry Hill stressed the need to have secure buyers.

“This is a research facility that just happens to produce energy,” Hill said. “By having research tie ins, it will make the proposal that much stronger.

“You have to pitch the fuel flex ability and you are sitting right on top of a coal reserve, you have to pitch that card,” he added.

Hill also stressed the facility has to be kept operational and cannot be shut down.

Tinker said the Texas Team is looking at the pros and cons of each proposal submitted. The team had reviewed three other proposals before coming to Palestine.

“We have to have something to grade,” Tinker said. “We can’t grant promises we have to have solid agreements.”

He said it would be the FutureGen Alliance and not the Department of Energy that will make the final decision on where the site is located.

Tinker stressed the need to make the research facility and power plant as profitable as possible for the nonprofit entity.

The team is expecting the DOE and the Alliance to send out request for proposals in mid-February.

But the longterm goal of the team is to create as many FutureGen-type facilities as possible.

“For this project to succeed it needs to spawn 10 sites quickly,” Tinker said. “We need to find a way to make using coal cleaner and make in economically possible for China to use this type of energy.”

He said this is all part of the President Bush’s clean coal initiative.

After the presentation the team visited the proposed site, the old ALCOA plant — 8 miles east of Palestine on U.S. 79.

The current owner, American Bio Fuel, is willing to work with the plant to let officials coexist on the site.

The site needs 100 acres, and the ALCOA site, which previously was approved for the proposed LGE power plant, fits the bill.

Palestine was selected by the East Texas Council of Governments to be the proposed site and represent the region to the Texas FutureGen Team and selection committee in November.

After achieving that goal, the city and PEDC are striving to be selected as the FutureGen Team, headed by Tinker and Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.

This team will recommend sites to the FutureGen Advisory Board, which will choose the final site for consideration by the DOE.

The FutureGen Project is a $1 billion emissions-free 275-megawatt power plant and research facility that will generate electricity, produce hydrogen and capture carbon dioxide, according to Katie Tobin of the FutureGen Texas Team.

In addition to supporting the project, council members approved committing to supply two billion gallons of water per year for 20 years if Palestine is selected for the site of the futuristic power plant. The motion stated it would reflect any changes in future water needs or time schedules.

“The power plant will use a carbon capture technique to make the plant as close to emission free as possible,” Tobin said.

The plant will use a gasifier to convert coal into a synthesis gas made of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is suited to make decarbonized energy after a cleanup process, Tobin explained.

According to the FutureGen Web site, this process will replace the need for natural gas or oil in power production.

The simplified process, according to Christina Bobichaud, manager of American Bio Fuel and area expert on the plant, is coal and water goes into the gasifier and electricity, slag, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and sulfur are produced.

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