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Algy Cluff’s underground coal gasification plan in the Forth put on hold

Chief executive Algy Cluff maintains he is still committed to the plan.
Chief executive Algy Cluff maintains he is still committed to the plan.

The company behind a controversial coal burning scheme in the Firth of Forth will not seek planning permission until after next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Cluff Natural Resources (CNR) has blamed political uncertainty and “irresponsible scaremongering by green extremists” for its decision.

The company stressed, however, it remains fully committed to its flagship project in Kincardine and is continuing with preparatory work and talks with regulators and communities.

Cluff wants to invest £250 million to build the UK’s first deep offshore underground coal gasification (UCG) project.

It says the scheme would create hundreds of new jobs and secure the UK’s energy supply for several decades.

Opponents fear Fife is being used as a guinea pig for the process which involves drilling a 12-inch vertical borehole into a coal seam below the sea bed, flushing it with oxygen and igniting it with a burner.

It is largely untested and has never been attempted offshore.

The Scottish Government has been urged to include UCG in its moratorium on unconventional gas extraction amid fears of an environmental disaster if toxic gases leak into Fife’s rising mine water.

CNR chief executive Algy Cluff said a number of external factors, including next year’s election, a motion at the SNP conference on the moratorium and the ongoing commission set up to review Scotland’s energy needs, could all impact on the development of the Kincardine project.

“Accordingly, we have deemed it prudent to await clarity on these matters before committing fully to, in particular, the expense of an environmental impact study,” he said.

“As a result, work on a planning application will likely be postponed until after such time as the political situation is more certain.

“Preparatory work including site selection studies, modelling and design work are, however, well under way.”

The company’s chief operating officer, Andrew Nunn, told The Courier: “The irresponsible scaremongering by green extremists and their denial of the need for domestic hydrocarbon production to support local industry, help pay for renewable technologies through their infancy and to provide additional security of supply in an increasingly volatile world, does not benefit Scotland in any way.”

He added: “While the uncertainty around project timing is regrettable, we confirm we have not postponed our plans and continue to work with regulators and other stakeholders to ensure that key decision-makers and local communities are properly informed about this project, the potential benefits and the science behind the various risk mitigation measures which are designed into it from the outset.”

Photo by George McLuskie

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