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Novel coal-gasification project proposed for the Firth of Forth

Words: Roger Milne
The Forth Rail bridge over the RIver Cross

An ambitious plan to extract gas from under the Firth of Forth to power millions of homes is being drawn up following a major coal find.

Cluff Natural Resources has announced plans to build what would be the UK’s first underground coal gasification (UCG) plant.

The company reported that an independent consultant had verified a find of 335 million tonnes of coal under the Firth in the “Kincardine Licence Area” – more than 43 million tonnes of which it said was suitable for UCG – and is currently working on a planning application for the project.

The licence covers an area of 37.6 square kilometres of tidal estuary near the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth, the Longannet power station and “a number of other energy-intensive industries which could benefit from a new low-cost source of fuel gas and petrochemical feedstock,” according to the company.

Environmental groups have already raised objections to the scheme, citing fears that the process could bring toxic substances to the surface and disrupt the ecosystem in the Firth of Forth.

The process of gasification involves drilling horizontally into a seam and then injecting air and oxygen to produce syngas - a mixture of combustible gases including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and carbon dioxide.