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06 February 2015 | by Gabor Chodkowski-Gyurics

Pressure mounts to ban underground coal gasification in Scotland

Pressure mounts to ban underground coal gasification in Scotland
Following its ban on hydraulic fracturing, Scotland government is now facing pressure to restrict the use of underground coal gasification (UCG) technology. The possibility to exploit coal gas reserves lying by the country's shore is seen by many in Scotland as a "gaping loophole" in the temporary ban imposed on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) across the country last week.

When Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, announced the moratorium on fracking on January 28, he said that the Scottish government only had powers over onshore activities. Yet, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, it would have to issue licences for UCG under at least two pollution control regimes, necessary for the plants to operate.

This has been seized upon by environmental groups and opposition politicians, who accuse Ewing of misleading parliament and the public regarding the extent of his power over the controversial practice.

"Failure to include underground coal gasification means there's a huge gaping loophole in the Scottish government's moratorium," said Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland. "There's clearly going to be a role for Scottish regulators in the approval of these types of schemes, so it would be pretty simple for Scottish ministers to have effectively put a hold on them too. Failure to include UCG is bad news for people and the environment."

Currently, two private companies, Cluff Natural Resources and Five Quarter, have advanced plans to gasify the coal lying under five licenses covering large parts of the Firth of Forth and the Solway Firth.


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