Controversial plans to gasify coal under North Sea put on hold until political situation becomes ‘more certain’

Controversial plans to gasify coal under North Sea put on hold until political situation becomes ‘more certain’
Greg Russell, The Ferret

The company behind proposals for Scotland’s first underground coal gasification (UCG) project in the Firth of Forth has put them on hold indefinitely.

In an interim statement, Algy Cluff, the chairman and chief executive of Cluff Natural Resources, said work on a planning application “will likely be postponed until after such time as the political situation is more certain”.

He said: “While we continue to work with regulators and Halliburton on the technical aspects of the demonstrator project there are a number of external factors, including the ongoing commission recently set up by the Scottish Government to review Scotland’s energy needs which is due to report in September 2015, a motion at the SNP Party Conference calling for the inclusion of UCG in its moratorium on onshore oil and gas and the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May 2016, which have the ability to impact the development of the Kincardine Project. Accordingly we have deemed it prudent to await clarity on these matters before committing fully to, in particular, the expense of an environmental impact study.”

The postponement was welcomed by environmental groups. WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Despite all their bluff and bluster, it’s clear that Cluff’s plans to burn coal under the North Sea are in real trouble. However, to ensure the full climate and environmental impacts of these type of developments can be properly examined, ministers should use this pause in Cluff’s plans to finally bring underground coal gasification under their existing moratorium on unconventional fossil fuels.”

Flick Monk, a campaigner against unconventional gas at Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) said: “Cluff’s change of mind is testament to the huge level of organised opposition to unconventional gas within the local communities around the Firth of Forth.

“Cluff is clearly running scared at the strength of feeling within both the community and the SNP grassroots membership, who have put out a powerful call to get underground coal gasification included in the current moratorium on unconventional gas.

“It is certainly time for the Scottish Government to put a moratorium on this … technology so that the full health and environmental impacts can be assessed.”

Source: The Ferret