Minister agrees to look again at coal gasification

Energy Minister Charles Hendry today agreed to meet with Newcastle University and Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah to discuss the Government’s position on underground coal gasification (UGC).

Ms Onwurah secured the meeting in the House of Commons when asking the Government to consider doing more to support  coal gasification, a developing clean energy technology that exploits underground coal being pioneered by Newcastle University and spin-out company Five Quarter. Ms Onwurah will be joined at the meeting by Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell and Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery.

The agreement to review the Government’s position on support for the technology comes on the eve of celebrations of the North East’s coal mining heritage as part of Durham Miners Gala on Saturday.  UGC could help ensure that heritage is part the region’s future.  The skills and knowledge developed through decades of mining mean that the region is well-placed to become a world leader in low-carbon and clean coal energy technology development and exploitation.

Chi said:

“The North East has a proud heritage of coal mining, powering Britain’s industrial revolution. 75% of Britain’s coal reserves are still deep underground, much of it under the North Sea.

“Government needs to take an active approach to new technologies such as UGC which could represent a huge opportunity for the North East. We have the skills and knowledge, and the natural resources to take a lead.

“I will be joined at the meeting by other North East MPs keen to support this technology.  I hope the Minister will come with an open mind.”

Agreeing to a meeting with the University, the Minister of State for Energy said:

“I would be very grateful if the hon. Lady would bring those people from the university to meet me to talk about the work they are doing and how that resource can be developed more effectively […]

“This is a technology we are keen to watch, but I would be very grateful to learn from the university’s expertise.”

Underground Coal Gasification is achieved by drilling boreholes into the coal and injecting a mixture of either water and air, or water and oxygen mixtures.  It is at an early stage in development but Newcastle University is at the forefront.

It is both an extraction process (like coal mining) and a conversion process (gasification) in one step, producing a high quality, affordable synthetic gas (Syngas)  that can be processed to provide fuels for power generation, diesel fuels, jet fuels, hydrogen, fertilisers and chemical feedstock.

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