Scottish ministers have slapped a ban on underground coal gasification (UCG) calling a halt on plans to search for gas in the Firth of Forth.
The UCG ban is separate to the existing moratorium on onshore unconventional oil and gas, which includes hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – and impacts Cluff Natural Resources’ proposals for its development near Kincardine.
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said: “This welcome announcement is an extension of the Scottish Government’s cautious, considered, evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas and contrasts sharply with the Tory UK government’s gung-ho approach to the issue.
“The existing moratorium on onshore fracking has been welcomed by environmental campaigners and industry representatives alike. It is right that we also have a moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification until we have fully considered the impacts of this technology and the views of the communities which will be most affected.
“This new moratorium on UCG, however, will only cover planning proposals, as exclusive rights to exploit coal resources for UCG will continue to rest with the UK Government.”
Cluff Natural Resources stated it hoped the Scottish Government would reach a positive conclusion on the potential of UCG as quickly as possible.
Algy Cluff, chief executive officer, said: “There has been a prolonged period of political uncertainty around the Scottish Government’s position on UCG. Both next week’s SNP conference and next May’s Holyrood election have clearly played their part in creating this difficult political climate.
“As a consequence, in our interim statement to shareholders in August, we announced our intention to hold further investment until the picture was clearer. Now that we have a degree of clarity, we will make decisions about the future priorities for Cluff Natural Resources.
“We have to date made significant investment in the UCG project at the Firth of Forth, and believe the benefits the UCG process would bring to Scotland in terms of jobs, economic value and energy security are too great to be missed.
“It would also help address our looming energy gap, when Longannet closes next March it will take with it the capacity to generate more than three quarters of the electricity required by Scotland.
“We will work with Professor Campbell Gemmell, who has been appointed to lead the Scottish Government’s examination of the issues and evidence surrounding UCG.”