Scottish Government places moratorium on coal gasification development

The Scottish Government has imposed a moratorium on the underground conversion of coal into gas while it considers the impacts of the new technology.

A shale gas fracking rig
A shale gas fracking rig

The suspension on the onshore planning of underground coal gasification (UCG) developments was put in place on Thursday. It is separate to the moratorium already in place for onshore unconventional oil and gas, which covers hydraulic fracturing.

In a statement, the Scottish Government said: "Ministers have been clear that these are two separate technologies, subject to different licensing regimes, and hence will be considered separately."

Professor Campbell Gemmell, the former CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, has been appointed to lead an independent examination of the issues and evidence surrounding UCG.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has extended its programme of research into the impacts of onshore unconventional oil and gas. It will now consider the transport, climate change and economic impacts. Seismic monitoring research will also be undertaken and consideration given to decommissioning and aftercare issues.

Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing said: "We should never close our minds to the potential opportunities for Scotland from new energy technologies – but we must also ensure that community, environmental and health concerns are all fully taken account of. The research we propose in this timetable will give all interested stakeholders important information to allow a more informed debate during the public consultation.

"In line with our evidence-led approach we are today also putting in place a moratorium on the onshore planning of underground coal gasification developments to allow time for full and careful consideration of the potential impacts of this technology for Scotland."

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