Campaigners are celebrating the news that Five Quarter Energy has collapsed, leaving only one remaining active company, Cluff Natural Resources, attempting to push ahead with Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in the UK.
Five Quarter had been pursuing plans to carry-out UCG off the coast of the UK for eight years, but, as the rather sad sounding announcement on their website confirms (boo hoo), they have finally given up and have ceased trading and closed their offices. The company, who threatened legal action against an environmental activist who dared to criticise them, recently tried to secure financing through Foreign Direct Investment but failed to do so.
Cluff Natural Resources has also had a series of set-backs with plans being met by strong local resistance and a halving of their share price in a year. The company was focussing its efforts on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, however, following a decision to include UCG in the Scottish moratorium on fracking, they abandoned their plans and are now concentrating efforts on the North East coast between Sunderland & Hartlepool. It’s also probable that they will buy up the exploration licences previously held by Five Quarters.
Cluff Natural Resources was founded by multi-millionaire Algy Cluff, who made a fortune from North Sea Oil and mining in Africa. Apparently unashamed of his neo-colonial activities, Cluff said in an interview:
“Of course, the big South African mining companies were locked into South Africa. But I think what I did was help render Africa more broadly as respectable from an exploration point of view, proved you could work there, demonstrated it was possible to do business there, raise money and get it out.” (our emphasis).
There’s still a lot of work to do but stopping UCG getting off the ground (or under it) in the UK looks possible, especially while energy prices remain low. If successful, stopping the industry in the UK could have serious repercussions for the technology worldwide, as the UK is one of the only places currently trying to develop commercial operations.
With only one player left in the game campaigners can now focus their efforts on one company, and as labour organiser Utah Philips once said “The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”
UCG involves burning coal seems underground and extracting the resulting gas to use as a fuel. Experiments with UCG have resulted in catastrophic ground water contamination. If it is ever successfully developed, the technology would have disastrous implications for climate change due to the vast additional coal resources it would give access to.