Moray public will welcome moratorium on coal gasification

Angus Robertson - Moray will welcome moratorium on UCG
Angus Robertson – Moray will welcome moratorium on UCG

AN OIL INDUSTRY pioneer has said the Scottish Government is wasting its time conducting research into offshore Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) – as it had already been done.

Algy Cluff, who is chairman and chief executive of Cluff Natural Resources who have three UCG licences in the Firth of Forth, hit out after the announcement on Thursday that a moratorium was to be placed on UCG in Scotland.

Holyrood has also set a timetable for “extensive” research and a consultation process into the impacts of onshore unconventional oil and gas exploration – more commonly known as ‘Fracking’.

The move was hailed as welcome news for many people in Moray, according to local MP Angus Robertson – but was dismissed by Mr Cluff, who said: “Given that the UK Government carried out a decade’s worth of research into the viability of UCG between 1999 and 2009, at considerable cost to the taxpayer, the evidence base for proceeding with the process already exists.”

However, Angus Robertson, who is the SNP’s leader at Westminster, insisted that the Scottish Government decision will be widely welcomed: “Many of my constituents have serious reservations and concerns about the processes involved in fracking and UCG.

“These are relatively new technologies and it is absolutely right that they should be subject to rigorous analysis and evidence gathering before they can be deemed safe or otherwise.

“The research and consultation timetable set out by the Scottish Government today shows that they are serious about conducting an extensive and thorough examination of the community, environmental and public health impacts.

“I know that this considered approach will be welcomed by the many campaigners here in Moray who have supported a moratorium, and everyone, whatever their views on the issue, will have an opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Fracking – also known as hydraulic fracturing – refers to the method used to extract gas or oil from shale rock by injecting large volumes of water containing a number of additives. This includes sand and lubricating fluids into the rock under high pressure.

Underground Coal Gasification is a process for exploiting coal that cannot be mined because the seams are too deep, thin or fractured. The process involves using the same sort of drilling technology usually used for fracking to get air/oxygen into the coal seam and then set the seam on fire.