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Green group ‘scaremongering’ over plan to burn coal seams

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Underground coal gasification is a threat to environmental and public health, causing water contamination, subsidence and industrial accidents, according to a report by Friends of the Earth Scotland

Claims from an environmental group that underground coal gasification is unsafe have been dismissed as “scaremongering” by a firm seeking to carry out projects in Scotland.

A report by Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) has set out claims that underground coal gasification (UCG) – a method of burning coal in-situ, typically several hundred metres beneath the surface – is a threat to environmental and public health, citing a history of water contamination, subsidence and industrial accidents. 

The report lists case studies from around the world to back up its claims. 

However, veteran oil entrepreneur Algy Cluff, owner of Cluff Natural Resources, which has licences for nine potential undersea coalfields, including around the Forth and Solway Firths in Scotland, has dismissed the FoES report as “scaremongering”. 

Cluff Natural Resources said: “The FoES report talks a lot about the potential risks associated with UCG projects but doesn’t discuss probability of those risks occurring. 

“This report is designed purely to intimidate communities and politicians ahead of the publication of independent reports on UCG being prepared for the Scottish government. 

“We have always acknowledged that a number of UCG projects have failed to meet those standards which most stakeholders would find acceptable. But to ignore modern UCG projects which have clearly demonstrated that with appropriate site selection, engineering and operational oversight the technology is capable of delivering a credible alternative to imported natural gas would be foolhardy within the wider context of the UK’s energy security and industrial strategy.”

The report comes in the weeks before Professor Campbell Gemmell is due to submit his review of UCG to Scottish ministers, under the current moratorium on proposed UCG projects that have been granted licences by the Coal Authority. 

FoES is urging the Scottish government to ban UCG. FoES campaigner Flick Monk, said: “Plans to burn coal seams under the Firth of Forth are completely reckless.”

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