Energy firm to walk away over gas extraction ban

A scheme had  been considered for the Forth. Picture: TSPL
A scheme had been considered for the Forth. Picture: TSPL
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THE head of an energy giant behind ambitious plans to extract gas from below the Firth of Forth says it is ready to “go elsewhere” after a temporary ban was imposed by ministers.

The SNP government announced a moratorium on the underground coal gasification (UCG) process amid safety and environmental concerns. It is similar to the halt imposed on fracking.

Algy Cluff, chief executive and chairman of Cluff Natural Resources, warned that Scotland is facing an energy void with the closure of Longannet and says there is no “sense of urgency” in dealing with the crisis.

Cluff recently revealed plans for the UK’s first UCG plant in Fife, claiming 335 million tonnes of coal had been found under the Firth in the “Kincardine Licence Area” – more than 43 million tonnes of which was suitable for UCG.

Mr Cluff said yesterday: “It seems strange to me, with this looming crisis in Scotland which will result from the closure of all the coal-fired power stations.

“But the fact is they provide our energy at the moment and there doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency for filling the void which is going to start from 2017 onwards.”

The situation in Scotland is “particularly critical” with the looming closure of Longannet.

“So it’s some surprise to us that it doesn’t accord with the Scottish Government’s view so we have to go somewhere else.”

The SNP was facing the prospect of protests from its own members at the party conference next week over UCG plans for the Forth. The moratorium is on future planning applications which it controls. Licenses for such schemes are granted by the UK government.

Energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “We should never close our minds to the potential opportunities from new energy technologies – but we must also ensure that community, environmental and health concerns are all fully taken account of.”

Greens’ co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Uncertainty remains for thousands of communities across Scotland who still don’t know what the Scottish Government’s long-term policy is.”