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Fears over plans to tap into coal gases

Protesters vow to fight pro­pos­als for work off coast

Sea­ham res­i­dents protest­ing against plans for un­der­ground coal gasi­fi­ca­tion off the East Durham coast. Below, MP Gra­hame Mor­ris. and health and safety checks.

Cluff ’ s li­cence lasts for five years.

The process in­volves driv­ing bore­holes be­low the seabed from land, in­ject­ing steam and oxy­gen to ox­i­dise coal and sur­round­ing rock and turn it into a mix­ture of gases.

It does not in­volve frack­ing or in­ject­ing chem­i­cals into rocks.

No one was avail­able at Cluff to com­ment on its plans, but Eas­ing­ton MP Gra­hame Mor­ris has held dis­cus­sions with its of­fi­cials and he be­lieves it has no plans to press on with work soon as it is con­cen­trat­ing on other projects. A protest group called Fam­i­lies, Friends, Fight Against Gasi­fi­ca­tion ( Fag) has launched an um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion to co- or­di­nate ac­tion teams set up in Eas­ing­ton, Sea­ham and Mur­ton – as well as Sun­der­land, Cum­bria and Cleve­land – to op­pose gasi­fi­ca­tion plans.

A spokesman for the Sea­ham group said: “There is strong pub­lic op­po­si­tion to this, and Fag is cam­paign­ing against this po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic ac­tiv­ity.”

The group has in­vited MPs, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all po­lit­i­cal par­ties and coun­cil­lors to the meet­ing.

It plans to hold a pre­sen­ta­tion on how gasi­fi­ca­tion works and ex­plain the im­pact it could have on the com­mu­nity, health and en­vi­ron­ment, as well as its pos­si­ble risks.

Mr Mor­ris said: “A num­ber of con­di­tional li­cences have been granted across the coun­try.

“How­ever, I un­der­stand that it is un­likely that any un­der­ground coal gasi­fi­ca­tion will take place on the East Durham coast­line in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, as there are more vi­able al­ter­na­tive sites else­where in the UK, par­tic­u­larly those ar­eas with vir­gin coal seams and in close prox­im­ity to pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties such as in the Firth of Forth, near to the Grange­mouth re­fin­ery.

“My un­der­stand­ing is that it will take some time to de­velop any plans for un­der­ground coal gasi­fi­ca­tion in East Durham.

“I am keen to ex­am­ine the ef­fects of the process in those ar­eas of the coun­try where op­er­a­tions will com­mence first.

“I be­lieve this will al­low our com­mu­ni­ties to make an in­formed choice as to whether they would want to sup­port un­der­ground coal gasi­fi­ca­tion, given the po­ten­tial for jobs, and as­sess the ben­e­fits in terms of em­ploy­ment to the lo­cal econ­omy, as well as weigh­ing up any pos­si­ble en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.”

The meet­ing will be held at Daw­don Min­ers’ Wel­fare Hall on Tues­day at 6.30pm.

Sunderland Echo 19 Nov 2014 Page 27