Energy Minister To Be Questioned On The Fife Coal Gasification Proposal
By Cynthia Taylor
The Scottish Energy Minister is to be questioned about the highly controversial plans of setting fire to the subsea coal seams off the Fife.
MSP Claire Baker of Mid Scotland and Fife will be pressing for a meeting with Fergus Ewing in order to discuss the role of the Scottish Government should the proposals for Kincardine and Largo Bay go ahead.
Ms Baker has expressed deep concern about a process that is known as the underground coal gasification (UCG), which it is feared that it will pollute the mine water.
Her comments back up Tom Adams councillor for Lavenmouth who has said that the Firth of Forth would become a test site for this technique. The technique is to drill a 12” vertical borehole into the coal seam that is situated below the sea bed.
The seam will then be flushed with oxygen, then a burner used to ignite it, the gas that results from this will then be piped to the on-shore power stations.
Ms. Baker has said that the fears are real about this technique and she expected that the technique will pollute the mine waters and she said that there were no adequate answers to the concerns.
Ms Baker said that should would be questioning the Energy Minister's role should these proposals go forward as a matter of urgency.
It is important for the Scottish government to be open with regard to any role that they play when granting licences that are needed by Cluff Natural Resources. She reiterated that the Fife coast is not used as a test site.
The Fife Council described these proposals as large-scale development which could have a potential to have a significant impact on the area locally. The Council also said that there were concerns expressed by the environment group, Friends of the Earth in Scotland.
The Charity has said that they share the fear about the possibility of toxic chemicals being released from this process, and they have called on government to concentrate on renewable sources of energy such as wave and wind power.
The now have plans to meet the chairpersons of every community council in Fife, and they will be discussing the impact that UCG and fracking of which separate licences have been granted over large areas of the region.
Fife is one of several areas that are being considered by the Oil baron Algy Cluff, of Cluff Natural Resources who have been given conditional licences issued by the Coal Authority.
These licences secure the rights to the coal, however, operations cannot commence before other permissions, including the environmental consent, has been granted.
Ms Baker said that it was important that all views were heard during the process and that it was disappointing that there had not been any public consultation or local engagement on the issue.
She will be asking about the regulatory regime for UCG in Scotland, what licences are needed and by whom, what, if any, discussions have been done with the Scottish government and Cluff Natural Resources, and the number of UCG licences that have been granted in Scotland, and also how UCG fits in with the Scottish government plans for energy.
Executive director of the Fife Council, Keith Winter, said that the local authority were working with Mr Adams with regard to the proposals. He continued that the council was considering its role in terms of regulation and licensing should the proposals be developed further as well as the planning, environmental applications, permits which are requested. He also said that they were going to meet with Cluff Natural Resources to discuss their proposal.
Friends of the Earth Director, Richard Dixon, said that the last thing that was needed was for more fossil fuels to be extracted.
He continued that Scotland has huge natural resources with wave, tidal and wind power and he felt that they should be concentrating on the development of these renewable industries, and not not be wasting time with potentially dangerous methods of the extraction of coal bed methane and fracking, and he felt that this proposal for underground coal gasification was not needed.
Mr Cluff however said that UCG would address the future needs for the UK's energy needs, and will avoid the need to use fracking. He said that this will enable the gas that is generated to be controlled easily using the supply of oxygen, and that it would produce sufficient gas to be able to fuel all of Britain efficiently and cheaply for hundreds of years to come.
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