Five Quarter’s power project uses up-to-the-minute technology to make clean electricity by tapping into vast reserves of coal off the North East coast.
It could share the same subsea pipeline as Teesside Low Carbon (TLC), a major power plant and carbon storage project planned for Teesside – and help lever investment for both.
If it goes ahead, TLC would revolutionise Teesside’s economy by providing a storage solution for heavy greenhouse gas emitters as green taxes start to bite, and also create hundreds of jobs.
Its consortium of industry heavyweights including BOC, International Power, National Grid, Fairfield Energy, Premier Oil and Progressive Energy, is currently bidding for vital Government funds to help finance the £2bn project.
Bosses say Teesside’s geography is right for a cluster of projects.
And Five Quarter’s project, south of Sunderland, could form a crucial part of that cluster.
The project was showcased at the EEIF’s Energy & Environment North East 2012 conference last week, one of the largest events of its kind held to explore the region’s green future.
Director of Five-Quarter Dermot Roddy, who is also Professor of Energy at Newcastle University, said the project would not have to mine coal – which opens up vast resources that are as-yet untapped.
“This project could say to the world, ‘we’ve found a way of accessing four or five times as much coal as we could before’,” said Dr Roddy.
“The attraction is, we can start off with UK coal rather than importing it. So far UK plants have almost all been based on importing somebody else’s coal.
There is far more coal in the world than people realise because we only count the coal that is cost effective to mine. And we are only interested in coal off the North East coast.”
The project has obtained licences to operate a 400sq km area of the sea bed, south of Sunderland, which contains some 2bn tonnes of coal – equivalent to three quarters of all the North Sea gas ever brought ashore.
But support for the project’s underground coal gasification technology would not be forthcoming within the context of Europe’s climate change agenda, say bosses, unless it involved a carbon management plan.
And that’s where anchor project TLC comes in.
The scheme would include a 200km pipeline network for transporting carbon from its own power station – and that of other heavy polluters on Teesside – to vast subsea voids where it would be stored.
“Projects adjacent to one another can share infrastructure,” claims Dr Roddy.
“A cluster of projects is a very sound idea, and we have been talking to some of the Teesside-based companies already. It’s the type of discussion we would expect to have.”
Five Quarter’s next step is to secure investment of at least £1bn.
Dr Roddy believes the UK needs TLC – despite what he calls the “beauty parade” of funding competitions, in which the Government favours such longer-term projects over newer ones like Five Quarter.
Peter Whitton, managing director at Progressive Energy, which is leading the TLC consortium, said he was “very positive” about Five Quarter’s scheme.
He added that the two sides were talking to each other.
“The Five-Quarter project is comparatively long-term technology,” he said. “It could be complementary. We encourage it.”