The FutureGen Texas Team, charged with researching and creating a short list of sites to locate the $1 billion FutureGen Project, announced the nine competitors to host the experimental electric generation facility on Thursday.

The areas that submitted proposals are: Alamo Area Council of Governments, Brazos Valley Council of Governments, Deep East Texas Council of Governments, East Texas Council of Governments (Palestine site), Heart of Texas Council of Governments, Houston-Galveston Council of Governments, Middle Rio Grande Development Council, Nortex Regional Planning Commission and Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission.

“I am extremely proud of the showing by local and regional leaders around the state,” Michael L. Williams, chairman of the FutureGen Advisory Board, said in a press release. “The energy and enthusiasm and expertise these nine regional councils have brought to the Texas effort will greatly assist us in putting together a strong state response to (the) DOE (Department of Energy).”

The state proposals were due to the FutureGen Texas Team by 5 p.m. Monday. Upon receiving those proposals, the team began reviewing the submissions and will conduct the field verification component of the review process by visiting each qualified site in late January or early February.

The request for proposals was issued by the state on Dec. 8, 2005.

Although Katie Tobin, a spokeswoman for the FutureGen Texas Team, said the schedule is totally dependent on the release of the DOE’s and the FutureGen Industrial Alliance of the FutureGen site criteria. The release of the qualifications from the DOE is expected in February or March, according to a news release.

FutureGen is a $1 billion project that will combine a power generation facility and a research facility for future energy supplies funded by private businesses and the Department of Energy.

According to the FutureGen and DOE Web sites, the emissions-free 275-megawatt power plant and research facility will generate electricity, produce hydrogen and capture carbon dioxide.

The power plant will use a carbon capture technique to make the plant as close to emission free as possible.

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.

The facility will create up to 400 permanent jobs and between 1,000 to 1,500 construction positions over two years.

Palestine’s proposal, representing the East Texas Area Council of Governments, was hand delivered by Palestine Economic Development Director Brian Malone before the 5 p.m. deadline on Monday.

Malone said he has a good feeling about Palestine’s proposal being on the short list and chosen as the site to represent Texas.

“We went through two different RFP (request for proposal) processes, one for the COG (council of government) and one for the state,” Malone said. “From the state’s request it looks like we have all the criteria to support the programs and our chances are very good to make the short list.”

In looking at the eight other contestants, Malone explained, based solely on the information given from the Bureau of Economic Geology, there are only three leaders: East Texas Council of Governments, Nortex Council of Governments and Middle Rio Grande Development Council.

“If you look at only two of the three key things which are coal, ability to sequester the carbon dioxide deep under ground and enhanced oil recovery by using carbon dioxide, there are lots of key players,” Malone said. “So based on the bureau’s statistics we fall within and match up to the requirements really well.”

Malone said creating the 37-page proposal with two appendixes was just as labor intensive as the first proposal.

“We spent the same amount of time getting information and did receive support from Tyler, Jacksonville, Marshall and Rusk,” Malone said. “Tyler was very, very helpful as was Jacksonville.”

Part of the state requirements were to supply a region of interest survey, which included information on housing, schools, hospitals, and other quality of life elements, according to Tobin.

In addition they combined the strengths of the regional proposals into the final Palestine proposal.

The selected location for the Palestine proposal is the old ALCOA site just outside of Palestine on U.S. 79 East.

According to PEDC President Fred Richardson, it is a ready-made site for the construction of the facility.

“The infrastructure is already there,” he said. “You have the waste water treatment facilities; the water supply; and pipeline and plans to construct a second one; railroad and interstate infrastructure; electrical lines and a TXU substation; all on site.”

The PEDC has a “right of first refusal contract” with Harvey Greenwald, president of American Bio-Fuel, the owner of the property.

“They are working with us on this project very closely,” Malone said. “They are very interested in seeing this project come to Palestine.

“They have the extra capacity at the site and it becomes a win-win situation for everyone,” he added. “Right now we are just waiting, but our goal is to make the short list and then be selected as the Texas site.”

The FutureGen Texas Advisory Board — appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and chaired by Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams — will select from the short list the site to represent the state of Texas at the national level.

The Texas FutureGen team estimates the proposals will be due to the DOE sometime this summer.

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Sherryl-Lynn Williams can be reached via e-mail at swilliams@palestineherald.com



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