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Coal to be sourced from the North Sea

World Cement,

The UK government has approved a proposal to burn coal deposits lying deep beneath the North Sea. Very large deposits of coal have been discovered here, extending from onshore deposits that have been mined in Britain. In addition, offshore exploration for oil has also uncovered previously unknown coal deposits in many areas.

Clean Coal, an Anglo-American company, has received licenses to develop five offshore sites for a technology called Underground Coal Gasification (UGC). This method, which is widely used in Australia, taps the high energy content of coal whilst avoiding costly and labour-intensive mining. The technique uses two bore holes drilled into a coal seam. The injection well is used to ignite the coal and keep it burning by pumping down oxygen to supply the fire. The other is used to extract a methane-rich synthetic gas that can be used to generate electricity by driving an aboveground power station.

UGC technology was invented in the UK about 100 years ago but since then, it has been refined through the use of advanced seismic technology and directional drilling developed by the oil industry.

Clean Coal plans to conduct seismic and borehole surveys over the next 12 - 18 months. If the surveys produce promising results, commercial operations could begin in 2014 - 15, with each site costing an estimated US$ 250 million (£ 152 million) to develop.

Permission we need to be obtained from the Environment Agency before drilling could start, as a couple of the sites are close to largely populated areas, such as Swansea and Grimsby. A public relations campaign is also planned to inform local people about the technology and how it works. Opposition to the process in Australia has been minimal because the onshore sites lie in remote areas, far from areas with large populations.

It has been suggested that, within 20 years, UGC could supply a large amount of Britain’s power needs, with some projects being developed far offshore using former oil platforms.

Source: Times Online

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