SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute broke ground on its carbon capture pilot project at the City Water, Light and Power (CWLP) Dallman Unit 4 plant Thursday.

The project is meant to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions.

“It’s very exciting to see a pilot like this come to life,” Tim Killeen, the U of I system president said. “It’s been a bit of a dream for some of us for a little while, but now we need to make it successful, and then scalable. And then it will scale not just in our state, but in the Midwest, in the United States, and across the country.”

The technology is designed to capture carbon dioxide in the atmosphere emitted from the plant’s large smoke stacks. After it makes its way through the equipment, a high purity form of carbon dioxide is formed and can be used for different purposes and stored in the ground.

“We are essentially looking at finding real solutions to some of not only the local challenges, but global challenges associated with climate change, decarbonizing the economy [and] Net Zero outcomes,” Praveen Kumar, the executive director of the Prairie Research Institute, said.

This is a large pilot testing project meant to demonstrate how the technology works.

“The way we mature technologies through the technology readiness levels is we start with lab and bench projects, we move to small pilot projects, we move to large pilot projects, and then we go commercial,” Lynn Brickett, the Carbon Capture director at the U.S. Department of Energy, said. “We are at the step prior to commercialization.”

When the state passed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in 2021, coal plants like CWLP agreed to clean up emissions to keep their plants running until 2050. This is part of a long effort by the city to get a head start.

“When it comes to a project like this, it proves the benefit of the potential usage of Dallman 4 not only past 2040, which was the state guidelines, but beyond that,” Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said.

The Department of Energy awarded $47 million for the final phase of the project. The state gave an additional $20 million towards it. 

The project began in April 2018 and is expected to be done by May 2026.