Warwickshire County Council has been engaging in secret talks (Coventry Telegraph) with Cluff Natural Resources, a company with plans to conduct underground coal gasification (UCG) under the county. UCG involves drilling into coal seams, using similar horizontal drilling technology to shale gas/oil and coal bed methane (CBM) extraction, injecting air/oxygen and setting fire to the coal, in order to extract a synthetic gas consisting of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane.
Also in the last week, Cluff got a hostile reception (Llanelli Star) from residents at a public meeting in Bury Port, South Wales, where it has already obtained a licence from the Coal Authority to set fire to the coal under the adjacent Loughor (Llwchwr) Estuary. Cluff also has a UCG licence in the Dee Estuary between Merseyside and North Wales, two in the Firth of Forth near Kincardine and Largo Bay and one off the coast of Cumbria near Whitehaven.
If granted, the onshore Warwickshire UCG licence would be the first of it’s kind in the UK, potentially opening the floodgates to licencing more areas of the UK countryside. Small scale trials of UCG over the last 80 years have invariably resulted on severe water contamination and/or explosions. The red areas in the coal resource map above have previously been identified as areas with UCG potential, though much larger areas would likely be threatend if it was allowed to gain a foothold.
Up until now the 24 UCG licences issued (see black areas on licence map below) have all been just off the coast, presumably because less opposition is expected, but the industry has been pushing for onshore licences which would be cheaper to exploit. Meanwhile the company most advanced in its plans is Five-Quarter Energy, which have several licences off the Northumberland coast, near Newcastle, and is threatening to try to start drilling soon.