New generation, low emission, power from coal to become a reality in the UK as the first underground coal gasification (UCG) licence is awarded in Fife, Scotland. Two industries which have previously been at the heart of the Fife economy – offshore oil and gas and coal mining – have come together to create a new generation of coal fuelled energy production in the region.
The Coal Authority has awarded the UK's first underground coal gasification (UCG) licence to Thornton New Energy Ltd, a subsidiary of BCG Energy Ltd. The company, set up by a group of businessmen with a strong background in offshore oil and gas exploration and production, intends to combine the latest directional drilling techniques to allow it to create gas for electricity production from the vast deep coal reserves which still lie under Fife and the Firth of Forth.
"The award of the country's first UCG licence is a significant milestone in Scotland moving towards new, cleaner forms of electricity generation and it helps ensure that we won't have to be too reliant on importing energy form other countries in the future," said Alan Borrowman Director of Surface Facilities and Process.
"Thornton New Energy's plans are for a rebirth of coal in Scotland, one which uses the vast expertise developed over the past 40 years in the North Sea and combines it with a traditional source of energy that has played a massive role in the Scottish economy for the past 200 years.
"The company's plans are to produce gas which will be used to generate electricity which significantly, can be processed to remove CO2 ensuring very low emissions.
"We believe that UCG can play a major role in Scotland's future, clean, energy generation and the award of this licence is the first step in that direction."
UCG is a method of converting un-worked deep coal, into a combustible synthetic gas while the coal is still underground. The gas can then be used for electricity generation, industrial heating and even the manufacture of hydrogen or ultra clean diesel fuel. The gas can also be processed to remove virtually all of its CO2 content, thereby providing a source of clean energy with minimal greenhouse gas emissions.
With the current concerns about energy security, this is an ideal time for utilising the country's vast domestic coal reserves through modern technology which does not scar the landscape or produce vast amounts of waste product.
"When combined with carbon capture and storage, underground coal gasification can provide a long term sustainable, cheap, secure and environmentally benign energy supply which could last Scotland and the rest of the UK for up to 100 years," explains Thornton New Energy Ltd Managing Director Trevor Butler.
"Although the UK has abundant coal reserves most traditional deep mines are no longer commercially viable. Coal gasification is a method of realising the vast potential of this energy reserve in a clean and sustainable manner."