Odessa Outlines Pros of Bid for FutureGen

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If you have ever driven to West Texas, you know there is nothing but land as far as the eye can see.

All that open space may prove to be an attractive selling point as the City of Odessa pushes to become the future home of FutureGen.

Hoxie Smith is the regional coordinator for FutureGen Texas in Odessa, and is also the director of the Petroleum Professional Development Center of Midland College.

"We have the largest parcel of land, over 600 acres that we're offering the Alliance," Smith said.

The proposed site is right off of Interstate 20, and offers the Alliance room to expand their research base should they want in the future.

Neil McDonald, the director of economic development for Odessa's Chamber of Commerce, says the property is a prime piece of real estate for a project of this size and need.

"Large site, flat as a billiards table, no infrastructure to be replaced or relocated, on the Union Pacific Railroad, with a major water line less than a mile north of the property and electric utility services on the site," McDonald touts.

The Quail Run Energy Center, a natural gas-fired power plant, recently completed phase one of its expansion plan to increase its production.

Phase two is currently under construction and should be operational in May 2008.

Coincidentally, the energy center and the proposed FutureGen site are close to TXU's high voltage transmission lines that are connected to the state's electric grid, ERCOT.

FutureGen's coal power plant would produce electricity, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. The production of the latter is giving city officials confidence about landing the project. FutureGen officials plan to harvest the carbon dioxide by-product produced by the power plant.

The gas will be injected into oil wells to increase oil production. It is a process already being used in a number of oil fields in West Texas.

"Our advantage, we think, is our tremendous infrastructure here of carbon dioxide pipelines and our handling of carbon dioxide," Smith said. "We've been putting carbon dioxide in the ground here in the oil fields for 30 years."

McDonald adds that West Texas has numerous experts with years of knowledge of how to maximize gas' properties.

"We got major companies that have great deals of experience in handling and utilizing carbon dioxide as a commodity," McDonald said.

West Texas officials will also provide FutureGen access to the area's research in geo-thermal heat, solar and wind power.

"We have an abundance of wind," Smith said. "We have wind farms going up everyday almost. It seems like they spring up."

Just like Texas A&M, Odessa's University of Texas of the Permian Basin is conducting its own research in energy.

"We also have nuclear power," Smith said. "UTPB is involved in designing a fourth-generation they call High-Temperature and Testing Reactor."

Alternative energy sources, McDonald says, falls in line with West Texas' history in oil, gas and petro-chemicals.

"That's really what we're about is energy," McDonald contends.

For all that it does have, the Odessa site does not have coal readily available like Jewett does.

However, officials say there is an easy solution to that problem.

"We can rail in the coal from any of the major coal producing provinces in the United States and Mexico," Smith said.

Odessa officials believe they have a good chance to house FutureGen.

"We've got history and performance for 70 years involved in the production of energy in Odessa and the Permian Basin," McDonald said.

Now, the region wants to lead the way in the future of energy with FutureGen.