Four north-east businessmen with a background in the oil industry are planning to start a new generation of coal-fuelled energy production in Scotland.
The quartet – Garron Lees, Alan Borrowman, Steve Walters and Trevor Butler – are all directors of Aberdeen-based BCG Energy.
The Coal Authority has awarded the UK’s first underground coal gasification (UCG) licence to BCG subsidiary Thornton New Energy. BCG, which was set up a couple of years ago, plans to use the latest directional drilling techniques from the offshore industry to allow it to create gas for electricity production from deep coal reserves under Fife and the Firth of Forth.
Mr Lees said, however, that the firm would eventually need hundreds of millions of pounds for the project to become fully operational, with a power station being built in Fife.
He added: “I am confident we can get this off the ground. We have some backers, but not enough to get us all the way through.
“We would need to attract funding as we go along and develop the project.”
Mr Lees revealed that a couple of utility companies were in negotiations with BCG. Mr Walters added: “The award of the country’s first UCG licence is a significant milestone in Scotland moving towards new, cleaner forms of electricity generation and it helps ensure that we won’t have to be too reliant on importing energy form other countries in the future.
“Thornton New Energy’s plans are for a rebirth of coal in Scotland, one which uses the vast expertise developed in the North Sea over the past 40 years and combines it with a traditional energy source, which has played a massive role in the Scottish economy for the past 200 years.
“We believe underground coal gasification will play a major role in Scotland’s future, clean, energy generation and the award of this licence is the first step in that direction.
“Our plans are to produce electricity from gas generated underground from coal, which can be processed to remove CO, ensuring very low emissions.”
UCG is a method of converting unworked deep coal into a combustible synthetic gas while the coal is still underground.
The gas can then be used for electricity generation, industrial heating and even the manufacture of hydrogen or ultra-clean diesel fuel.
Councillor Tony Martin, chairman of Fife Council’s environment, enterprise and transport committee, said: “Fife Council is excited by this announcement by Thornton New Energy.
“We are working with the company to assist the development of its innovative project which, hopefully will lead to a long-term source of energy generation from a traditional fuel source.
“It is hoped the project will create sustainable job opportunities and consequent local economic benefit.”