The Energy Department may proceed with a "modified" plan to build a prototype coal-burning power plant that would capture and store carbon dioxide as part of new efforts to expand international collaboration on carbon-management technologies, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said today.

His comments are the strongest indication yet that DOE might reverse a Bush administration decision to pull the plug on FutureGen, a federal-industry project that was to be built in Illinois and has faced significant cost overruns.

"We are taking, certainly, a fresh look at FutureGen, how it would fit into this expanded portfolio," Chu told reporters after his appearance at a Senate hearing on DOE research and development programs.

Chu said he has been working with foreign ministers and energy ministers to ensure greater international collaboration on what projects proceed to ensure that a range of carbon-management technologies are pursued.

A greater collaboration on deciding what projects to fund and how to "parcel out turf" would allow a FutureGen project to pursue a smaller range of missions, he said.

While the FutureGen plant was to have been a test bed for several technologies, if another nation plans to pursue one particular project, it would not have to be part of FutureGen, Chu said. This could help reduce project costs that otherwise could have been more than $2 billion, he said.

"There are many, many good things about it," Chu said. "We want to go forward in some modified way on that."

Several nations are planning carbon capture and storage demonstration projects, including 10 to 12 planned in the European Union, but greater multinational planning is needed, Chu said.

"It is being done essentially independently of one another," he said. "This does not make any sense to me. When I have been seeing a number of energy ministers, foreign ministers that have been coming through. In each instance, I said ... we know we need to explore a half-dozen technologies."

"Why not decide which ones we will explore? We could have people in various countries there on the ground participating in this," he continued, citing the prospect of "true engineering collaboration."

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500