Underground Coal Gasification

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24 November 2009

It would be hard to argue that the precise make up of the future energy mix is fixed and certain. We know that many existing conventional power plants are due to close with the combined emission requirements of the Large Combustion Plants Directive, and that significant numbers of nuclear plants are reaching the end of their working life.

We have seen the present government declare its strong support for nuclear new build as one important component of a law emission future source of power generation. Large subsidies have supported the installation of significant wind power generation, especially offshore, but debates continue over whether the UK's renewables targets will be met any time soon. Major changes have been made to the legislation, policy support and finding for Carbon Capture and Storage, but despite this, the commitment of several major power generators to 'clean coal' generation seems to be faltering, with renewed interest in gas and biomass powered generation.

Biomass generation involves complex issues of sustainability. Gas is always subject to concerns about the security of supply, and sure enough and right on cue, as a number of power generators expressed renewed interest in CCGT power stations, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin raised the issue of renewed disputes over gas supplies to Ukraine.

Underground coal gasification, according to its supporters, offers the scope to continue to draw on 17 billion tons of potentially gasifiable coal onshore in Britain with perhaps double that offshore. The gas produced by this process would be available as an alternative fuel source for any existing or new CCGT power stations and the resulting emissions could be subjected to Carbon Capture and Storage, as will be the case at the Hatfield IGCC plant which will now receive €180 million if European funding. Supporters if the technology, such as Kenneth Fergusson of the UCG Partnership argue that underground coal gasification represents a "clean, competitive, indigenous source of fuel".

For further information please contact Ross Fairley on +44 (0)117 902 6351 or ross.fairley@burges-salmon.com, or William Wilson on +44 (0)117 939 2289 or william.wilson@burges-salmon.com.

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