The UK government’s Coal Authority has come under fire after it granted 19 licences for underground coal burning for gas. Friends of the Earth has condemned the body for this move as it states that burning coal under the seabed would result in major climate pollution, toxic waste generation and contamination of groundwater.
The Coal Authority has sanctioned licences for underground coal gasification for an area covering more than 1,500 sq km of seabed. This area is just off the coasts of northeast and northwest England, Wales and east central Scotland. However, the governments of Wales and Scotland have put temporary moratoriums on this process after voices were raised about the associated dangers.
The UK mining industry has been in a downward spiral, and mining contractors are looking for alternatives, particularly after opencast coal mining has shut down in the country. It is not surprising that companies such as Cluff Natural Resources are pursuing other developments.
Cluff Natural Resources, led by oil entrepreneur Algy Cluff, has been granted nine licences for possible undersea coalfields spread over an area of 640 sq km. The licences are valid until 2018-2020. The company has two sites each off the coasts of Cumbria, Wales and near Durham, and three sites in the Firth of Forth, Scotland.
While the company’s progress has been delayed in Scotland due to the Scottish government’s moratorium, Cluff Natural Resources is evaluating development options in England, particularly in northeast England.
Five Quarter from Newcastle has ten licences for underground coal gasification. However, the company stopped trading in March 2016, and the licences may be reassigned to other companies.
Friends of the Earth stated that underground coal gasification has led to groundwater contamination, toxic waste and accidents in Australia, the US and South Africa. Considering the process will lead to 46 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, it would put paid to the country’s efforts to stem climate pollution.