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Scotland could tap into benefits of underground coal gasification

World Coal,

Fife-based company, Thornton New Energy Ltd – a subsidiary of British company BCG Energy Ltd – has formed a multi-million pound joint venture with Australian company Riverside Energy Ltd. The Joint venture will involve the exploration and development of coal resources under the Firth of Forth in Scotland.

Once exploration and testing is completed, the joint venture will use clean underground coal gasification (UCG) technology to make the most of the vast resources that remain in the Firth of Forth area.

Thornton New Energy became the first company to be awarded a license of UCG in the UK in 2009, while BCG was created to harness the expertise of the North Sea oil and gas industry in the development of clean energy from coal.

100 years of energy

When combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, UCG offers long-term sand sustainable, cheap, secure and environmentally benign energy supply that could last the UK for over 100 years, according to BCG.

Clean coal

"Riverside's experience and skill set in conventional mining complements our own expertise within BCG, developed in the oil and gas industry, and together we will be able to develop UCG operations much faster than otherwise would be possible," said Trevor Butler, managing director of Thornton New Energy. "We are looking at opportunities for clean coal around the world and that includes on Thornton's doorstep here in Fife."

The UCG licence awarded to Thornton New Energy in January 2009 covers 70 km2 of a coalfield lying 1000 – 2000 m or more below the surface, which cannot be mined with traditional technologies. The new joint venture with Riverside Energy extends the total field area to 240 km2.

Doug Goodall, managing director of Riverside Energy, said, "Our experience in energy related mining and exploration lead us to identify the Firth of Forth as one of Europe's premier deposits for UCG. We can expect extremely high recovery factors without many of the cost factors that are normally associated with deep mining. Although the UK has abundant coal reserves, most deep mines are no longer commercially viable using traditional extraction techniques. UCG is a method of realising the vast potential of this energy reserve in a clean and sustainable manner."

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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