Monday, January 16, 2012

The answer lies in the soil

It was sneaked in around December 2009 and now work has progressed to the state where Clean Coal Ltd wants to apply for planning permission for exploratory drilling in Swansea Bay. This is an Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) project. With a billion tons of coal thought to be lying under Swansea Bay – just one of 14 sites licensed for exploration – the potential is huge, possibly bigger than shale gas in the UK.

The initial Swansea programme aims to identify an area with about 30 to 50 million tons or so of coal suitable for underground coal gasification, with seams down to about 1,500 ft underground - too deep to mine, but ideal for producing syngas - a combination of carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen.

So far, there are UCG plants producing gas in Australia and Central Asia but none in Europe as yet. Britain with massive coal reserves. With an estimated 85 percent of these reserves being considered unmineable, the UK is an ideal place to exploit this resource which, worldwide, could amount to five trillion tons of previously unreachable coal.

Once again, therefore, technology is coming to the rescue and confounding the naysayers. And nor can it come too soon as reports reach us that we could lose half our gas imports if the Iranians block the Strait of Hormuz.

Needless to say, the Greens are against it. Presumably, they would want to fill Swansea Bay full of windmills. But, as someone used to say, the answer lies in the soil.