Scotland bans risky underground coal gasification

6 October 2016

Friends of the Earth Scotland warmly welcomed the Scottish Government's decision to ban underground coal gasification (UCG) today. Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced this afternoon that UCG poses numerous and serious environmental risks and should have no place in Scotland's energy mix.

Mary Church, head of campiagns for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: "This is a victory for people power. Setting coal seams alight under two of our major Firths was always a reckless idea and today the Government has listened to communities and put an end to this risky industry. We very warmly welcome the Energy Minister's announcement of an effective ban on underground coal gasification."

Underground coal gasification is a risky and highly experimental technology that involves burnning coal underground in order to extract gas, in this case under two of Scotland's five major coastal bays. The history of UCG is littered with contamination incidents, ground subsidence and industrial accidents, according to the organisation.

Mary continued: "Today's announcement will come as a huge relief to communities around the Forth and Solway Firths faced with this highly experimental technology, and give heart to communities threatened by other intrusive new fossil fuels. We look forward to the Scottish Government acting swiftly to ban shale gas fracking and coalbed methane drilling once it has finished its review. Today's UCG decision is the first time the Scottish Government has said no to more fossil fuel extraction and marks a hugely important turning point in the fight against climate change. To have any chance of keeping warming under the critical 1.5C limit we need a radical and fair overhaul of our energy systems, and commitment to leaving fossil fuels in the ground."

A moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification was put in place on 8 October 2015, separately from the ongoing moratorium on shale gas fracking and coalbed methane extraction. The fracking moratorium continues, with a set of studies underway and a public consultation due this winter.

Mary continued: "Celebration of this decision in Scotland is bittersweet given the news that the UK Government have ignored massive community opposition and approved fracking in Lancashire today. Fracking should not happen here in Scotland or anywhere. We stand in solidarity with the people of Lancashire."

Friends of the Earth Scotland argues that the renewables industry already supports 21,000 jobs in Scotland with tens of thousands more in the pipeline, and with the right planning and investment, a fair and just transition away from fossil fuels could bring 200,000 direct jobs to the Scottish economy by 2035.