Morgan County seeks new jobs with green project

Morgan County could be up for some large economic development opportunities in the next few years.

Last month the U-S Department of Energy chose the Ameren Plant in Meredosia as the site for a project known as FutureGen 2.0.

The project is designed to produce clean energy from coal by capturing and storing more than one million tons of carbon dioxide.

When the plant is retrofitted, it will be the world's first full scale oxy-coal-fired power plant with permanent carbon dioxide capture and storage.

But the next step is to choose the community for the facility to store the carbon dioxide. Now Morgan County has put its hat into the ring for that development as well.

New technology means significant opportunity in Morgan County. While plans for a coal burning plant are underway, a second opportunity for job growth is up for grabs.

Here's how it would work. The plant here in Meredosia would use a new coal burning technique to produce electricity. Then the carbon dioxide from that process would be transported to a new facility in Morgan County.

That storage facility would also mean construction of a research and training center as well as a visitor's center to the cutting edge facility.

That means as many as 75 new jobs on top of those at the plant and construction work.

Terry Denison the President of the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation says that's too many jobs to pass up.

Denison said, "It's new jobs, both permanent and construction jobs and several million in investment in the community. So we thought it was a great opportunity to help the entire region grow."

The company FutureGen has already said the retrofitted plant here at Meredosia will bring just as many jobs to the area, not to mention construction jobs associated with the three year project.

The storage facility's job would be to sequester CO2 in the liquid phase from going into the atmosphere. And that can only be done more than a mile beneath the earth's surface. There are only a few areas with specific sandstone geographic formations necessary to make this happen...and one of them is right here in Illinois. It's called the Mount Simon basin and part of it is in Morgan County.

But community support for this project is a vital piece.

Denison said, "It's all positive but I am sure people will have questions as it goes along."

The county has to submit a formal application by November 15. It should learn if it's been accepted by early next year. This type of storage facility has been used before to store natural gas, but never carbon dioxide.