Forthcoming low-carbon Forth Estuary coal-gasification development could dwarf Scottish renewables wind energy

Cluff Natural Resources' Largo Bay Offshore Area
Cluff Natural Resources’ Largo Bay Offshore Area


Cluff Natural Resources' Kincardine UCG exploration licence
Cluff Natural Resources’ Kincardine UCG exploration licence (area in red). The Forth rail and road bridges are shown, right

EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News Staff

The stock-market listed company which owns licences for underground coal gasification (UCG) off Fife in the Forth Estuary is currently carrying out a full environmental risk assessment – including a public health risk assessment – to support its forthcoming planning application.

The majority of work being undertaken for Cluff Natural Resources is through Scottish companies or companies with a significant presence in Scotland and it is expected that this planning application will be submitted to Fife Council before year-end.

 Two Fife councillors – Tom Adams and Neil Crooks – met face to face with Algy Cluff, head of Cluff Resources in Fife in September 2013 to discuss these issues. These councillors and Fife planning officials have also met with Cluff Resources on two further occasions.

 Last night, a Cluff spokesman said: “The Kincardine project in the Firth of Forth is our main focus over the next 10 months. Its industrial setting and extensive historic geological dataset, including a UCG feasibility study funded by the DTi, make it the ideal place to undertake the UK’s first UCG project since the 1950s. 

“In line with recommendations contained within these government-funded reports, we plan to undertake a time-limited production test on a single UCG panel to collect the data required to underpin a full commercial development. 

“The commercial application of UCG in the Firth of Forth, providing cheap feedstock and fuel gases to local industry within Grangemouth, could go some way to securing the long-term future of this nationally significant industrial complex which underpins a significant proportion of the Scottish economy.

“We continue to review the wider UCG opportunities within the Firth of Forth with a view to scaling up operations in the future.”

Cluff Natural Resources currently has 100% working interest in eight deep Underground Coal Gasification (‘UCG’) Licences in the UK covering a total of 61,274 hectares – including Kincardine and Largo Bay in the Forth estuary.

According to an independent consultant’s report commissioned by Cluff, the Kincardine licence area contains a total of 335 million tonnes of coal, of which 247 million tonnes is measured and indicated, and of which more than 43 million tonnes of coal is suitable for UCG.

On an energy equivalent basis this coal resource represents 1,395 BCF of natural gas.

To put this in context, 1 BCF of natural gas is enough to meet the entire combined energy needs of approximately 11,000 homes for one year – or the average annual energy output of 49 of the largest onshore wind turbines.

The gasification of coal produces Syngas which a mixture of combustible gases composed mainly hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and carbon dioxide.

It can be fired directly with air in boilers to raise steam for power generation, used in combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) or supplied to the petrochemical, steel or chemicals industry for the manufacturer of plastics, liquid fuels and fertilisers. Syngas can also be decarbonised, partially of completely, for UCG-CCS to be an effective low carbon solution to power generation.

It is expected that the above ground footprint of the coal gasification demonstrator, and future commercial scale developments, will be located on existing industrial or brownfield sites adjacent to the Firth of Forth with no material adverse impacts on local residents.

 All actual gasification of coals will take place hundreds of metres beneath the Firth of Forth itself and therefore not anticipated to materially impact the onshore area.

Cluff’s Kincardine licence is located adjacent to the major petrochemical complex at Grangemouth, the Longannet coal-fired power station and a number of other energy-intensive industries – all of which could benefit from a new low cost source of fuel gas and petrochemical feedstock.

 Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at Edinburgh University, commented:

“Cluff’s offshore deep UCG plan is a bold and innovative proposal – which could help to regain energy security and value through low-carbon production of fossil fuel.

“Domestic coal resources exist which are sufficient to supply many decades of secure energy production and feedstock. But those resources will remain inaccessible until new extraction technology is deployed such as UCG, and unless the produced carbon is captured after use.”

“Fuel and feedstock extracted from coal by underground gasification will be much cleaner than importing coal because most of the engineering occurs deep below ground offshore. Underground gasification will have less impact on the public than other forms of unconventional gas extraction.”

“Carbon capture is essential to link, and balance between, carbon production and carbon storage. Positioning underground gasification in Central Scotland gives easy and unique access to well understood transport pipelines and reliable sites for CO2 storage deep beneath the North Sea.”

Chairman and Chief Executive Algy Cluff said the company’s UCG licence forms the basis for future investment in Scotland while proving the performance of the deep UCG process in a UK context.

 He said: “The development of UCG in the Kincardine licence area would result in the creation of new jobs, help protect existing industry as well as create significant supply chain benefits.

“The emerging UCG industry has a significant role to play in unlocking the UK’s most abundant indigenous energy resource which, with the imminent closure of the last deep coal mines, is now otherwise effectively beyond reach.

“The deep offshore UCG projects being undertaken by CNR have significant environmental, safety, and when combined with carbon capture and storage, climate change benefits compared with coal mining and coal-fired power generation. We believe that UCG will help provide a cleaner energy, diversity of supply and energy security for the UK.”

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