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Industry news: August 2008

Gas storage development approved

Underground gas storage facilities have been approved by Dorset County Council. An application was made by Portland Gas Storage Ltd to store natural gas in caverns created within Triassic halite strata beneath the north–east corner of the Isle of Portland. The proposals include the construction of 28 caverns by progressive brining, a major new gas pipeline across Weymouth Bay, a brine pipeline and the surface infrastructure. At a current cost of £500 million, this is the largest development in Dorset since the expansion of the Wych Farm oilfield in 1993.

Currently there are halite cavern gas storage operations in Cheshire and Yorkshire. Other underground gas storage facilities are at the development stage. For additional information see the Mineral Planning Factsheet on Underground storage.

Source: Mineral Planning Journal, Issue 118, August 2008.

Offshore wind farm approvals

UK wind farm, BGS©NERC

A proposal by Scira Offshore Energy Ltd for a 108–turbine wind farm situated off the Norfolk coast has been approved. The 315 megawatts wind farm will supply approximately 178,000 homes. The Energy Secretary, John Hutton stated "Sheringham Shoal will be the UK's fourth largest offshore wind farm approved to date and will help provide a significant contribution towards our renewable energy targets."

Also approved recently was a 75 megawatts, 18–turbine wind farm at Middlemoor, Northumberland. This facility is being developed by Npower Renewables and will supply approximately 27,000 homes.

For additional information on the Government's energy targets visit:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Pages/MoreInformation.aspx?docid=76&refer=Media/FactSheets

Sources: http://www.bwea.com/media/news/articles/wind_industrywelcomes_major_a.html and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/7548739.stm

Kingsnorth protest

UK coal power plant, BGS©NERC

Protesters from the ‘climate camp’ at the Kingsnorth coal–fired power plant declare they plan to set up a permanent site. The Kingsnorth site in Kent has been the scene of confrontation between police and protesters in recent weeks, as protesters try to disrupt the power plant.

The power plant owners, E.ON UK, plan to raze the existing Kingsnorth plant and replace it with two cleaner coal–fired units. If approved, the power station would be operational by 2012 and would supply 1.5 million homes. However, the protesters claim that the plans to build new coal–fired units on the site would signal a new generation of polluting power stations. The government disputes this, emphasising that the power stations are essential for future energy supply and that technology will be able to capture the polluting gases and store them. However critics of the carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology have highlighted that it is untried at a large scale, such as attached to power plant.

E.ON UK have a large investment plan for the UK that includes gas power stations in Kent and Derbyshire, wind farms in northern Britain and marine energy projects in the west of Britain. It is also considering a £300 million investment to build Britain's largest biomass power station at the port of Bristol.

Sources: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/aug/11/kingsnorthclimatecamp.activists and

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/aug/20/utilities.renewableenergy

Dumfries and Galloway approve coal extraction

UK open cast coal extraction, BGS©NERC

Dumfries and Galloway County Council has approved plans for a new open cast coal mine near Kirkconnel. The plans for the site will go to the Scottish Government for final approval. The operators, ATH Resources Plc, operate four opencast mines in Scotland and have a total work force of more than 350. The company, the third largest coal–producing company in the UK, proposes that the new mine will produce 1.3 million tonnes of coal and would directly employ 104 staff. The coal will be transported by extending Glenmuckloch mine conveyor belt system that currently connects to the railhead at New Cumnock in Ayrshire.

Source : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/south_of_scotland/7567521.stm

Energy Statistics

The UK Government has released the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics 2008 . The publication contains much detailed information on UK energy production and usage, commodity stocks and foreign trade. It includes sections on petroleum, gas, coal and electricity.

Source: http://www.berr.gov.uk/energy/statistics/publications/dukes/page45537.html

QPANI issues stark warning

Gordon Best, the regional director of the Quarry Products Association in Northern Ireland (QPANI), gave a frank picture of the current quarrying industry in the province: "This is the worst operating environment that the industry has experienced in over 25 years, and, with no end in sight to the credit crunch and high energy costs, the short–to–medium–term future looks grim."

Mr Best went on to explain that in the Northern Irish extractive industry 300 jobs have been lost this year alone. The increases in production and transport costs have been made more severe by a drop in business. He called on the Northern Ireland Executive to fast track major infrastructure projects, cut fuel duty on certain key business sectors and kick start the housing market. Calling on the politicians to work with the business community to cushion the blow, Mr Best said "In times of crisis we need leadership, and believe me, we are in a crisis".

Source : http://www.quarrymanagement.com/showarticle.php?db_id=12192& [No longer available]

Tearsall fluorspar application supported

The Darley Dale Town Council has motioned not to block the planning application by Glebe Mines Ltd to extract fluorspar from the site north of Tearsall Farm, 3.6 km west of Matlock in Derbyshire. The proposal, to extract 660 000 tonnes of fluorspar over six years from the Derbyshire site, still has to be passed by the Peak District National Park Authority.

Glebe Mines is the only fluorspar producer in the UK, supplying raw material for INEOS Fluor's hydrofluoric acid manufacturing plant in Cheshire. The company has expressed concerns over the consequences if the application is denied as they only have reserves until the end of 2008. The full application details can be found at: http://www.tearsall.co.uk/default.htm [No longer available].

Source : Industrial Minerals Magazine, August 2008.

Radioactive waste disposal

UK nuclear power plant, BGS©NERC

The former open pit site at Keekle Head, near Whitehaven in Cumbria, has been targeted by Sita UK for purchase as a possible site for the disposal of low level nuclear waste. Sita UK are a waste and recycling management company dealing with domestic and commercial clients. No planning proposal has been submitted to Cumbria County Council. However, a local councillor has expressed opposition to the idea, explaining that residents of the nearby villages have not been consulted. The company has indicated that informal talks have taken place with planners in the county council and at a local level.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cumbria/7540287.stm

Territorial ownership of the ocean floor

The UK has made the first of three submissions outlining claims of territorial ownership of the ocean floor. The first submission was for sea floor surrounding Ascension Island, situated in the mid Atlantic between Africa and South America. Additional submissions are expected by the UK Government regarding the seabed surrounding Rockall in the North Atlantic and around the Falkland and South Georgia Islands in the South Atlantic. The proposed submission regarding Rockall has highlighted conflicting claims by Denmark, Ireland and Iceland.

At present, countries can extract resources from the seabed up to 200 nautical miles from their shoreline. With permission from the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UN CLCS), they can extend their jurisdiction up to 350 miles beyond a coastline. Countries have to show that the ocean floor is a continuation of their continental shelf.The UN commission has set a deadline of May 2009 for the submission of evidence in support of their claims. The extended ownership of the ocean floor will potentially yield major benefits in terms of access to oil, gas and mineral resources.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/aug/28/foreignpolicy.unitednations