Copious gas from North Sea coal
From Mr Algy Cluff.
Sir, The government has committed, in its Gas Generation Strategy, to support up to another 40GW of gas-fired power stations to replace old coal, oil and older gas-fired plants over the next 15-20 years. Electricity generated from gas will form the backbone of UK energy policy for the foreseeable future and will provide a bridge as the UK looks to embrace a new atomic age from the mid 2020s.
The feedstock for new gas-fired power stations will reach the UK by pipeline, liquefied natural gas carrier, some UK shale extraction as well as gas from declining North Sea fields. Importantly, the real potential of shale in the UK remains unclear.
As Britain’s remaining coal mines struggle to raise investment and reach the end of their natural lives the UK’s thirst for gas can and must be met by a variety of supplies; but it is the UK’s coal reserves that have a huge role to play. Proven underground coal gasification (UCG) technology allows the coal to be combusted in the seam and a syngas to be extracted for use by industry or the electricity generating sector.
Britain’s coal reserves are considerable, onshore and offshore. The potential for this technology to be deployed in offshore locations raises the opportunity for abundant gas production from indigenous coal reserves without any possible impact on residential development, water courses or the landscape.
When I participated in the early days of North Sea oil exploration, it became manifestly clear that we were drilling through thick coal seams which, however, we could not access or utilise. Times have changed and I can foresee the North Sea oilfields being superseded by North Sea coal fields with the capacity to sustain the UK for thousands of years with gas.
The government must move to better support UCG and guarantee that the relevant coal licences, distributed to allow UCG development, are prioritised for UK companies, which can deliver a new world-leading energy industry, harnessing revolutionary new techniques and delivering an important boost to UK energy security.
Algy Cluff, Chairman and CEO, Cluff Natural Resources, London SW1, UK