Five Quarter, Harry Bradbury, and UCG in the Solway Firth

CEO of Five Quarter Energy Dr Harry Bradbury took exception to my press release of two weeks ago highlighting concerns about his company's plans for underground coal gasification in the Solway firth. 

Prior to issuing my press release I wrote to Five Quarter with a number of questions about the proposed development. In a letter to the Annandale Observer last week Dr. Bradbury claimed that he had already answered my questions in his reply and that there was no need for my press release.  He accused me of making "alarmist statements" and talking "scientific nonsense". 

Dr Bradbury failed to answer many of the legitimate concerns I raised on behalf of my constituents before attacking me in the press.

Below is my correspondence with Five Quarter so that readers can judge for themselves...


March 10 2015


Dear Sir


I am writing to you in my capacity as a local MSP regarding Five-Quarter’s plans to explore Underground Coal Gasification in the Solway Firth. I would be grateful if you could pass on my letter to the relevant member of Senior Management at Five Quarter.

 I recently obtained a map from the Coal Authority showing in some detail the area of coastline and seabed affected running from the south of Annan to the West of Gretna – and taking in the entire estuary down to the Cumbria coast.

Given the controversy surrounding UCG in other parts of the world I think it is only right that I ask some questions about Five Quarter’s intentions in the Solway Firth on behalf of the communities I represent.

I am aware that the Coal Authority granted a conditional licence to Five Quarter covering the Solway for the period December 2013 to December 2016. When will Five Quarter apply to the Council and SEPA for relevant planning and environmental permissions?

Given the environmental concerns about UCG I would like to know how deep under the seabed the combustion of coal will take place? As you will be aware, the emissions from UCG are also greater than for burning coal above ground.   Will Five Quarter therefore be using Carbon Capture and Storage technology to offset these increased emissions? If so, where will the bulk of the economic activity take place?

Lastly, I would like to know how many direct jobs will be created locally by this development?

I look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours Sincerely

Joan McAlpine MSP




Dear Ms McAlpine

Thank you for your letter of today's date. As you may know, the purpose of holding a conditional licence from the Coal Authority is to allow a period of detailed investigation and planning. Five-Quarter holds such a licence for the Solway, but no decision has yet been made concerning any future phase of activity.

However, I can assure you that all relevant parties will be consulted should there be an intention to seek application for an unconditional licence. I regret to say that you have been misinformed about the processes associated with coal gasification and of the effects. As it relates to our own activities in Deep Gas Winning (a different and even more advanced set of processes) you will find useful information on our website, including our history at the forefront of professional environmental management.

We will continue to keep the First Minister's Office, the Energy Minster's Office and SEPA well informed of our processes, activities and proposals.

Kind Regards 




Dear Mr Bradbury

Thank you for your reply to my letter asking you a number of specific questions about Five Quarter’s plans for Underground Coalbed Gasification in the Solway Firth.  I do not find your reply particularly reassuring. Referring concerned people to your website strikes me are rather complacent.

I am also interested to know why you believe that it is appropriate to keep ministers and SEPA informed of your “processes, activities and proposals”  but not the members of parliament elected to represent the people who live in the area.

Yours sincerely

Joan McAlpine MSP



Dear Ms McAlpine

Perhaps you'd be kind enough to re-read my email which was sent in an effort to be helpful to you, including directing you to information from which you can gain a clearer understanding. Our approach to the Scottish Government and to your leadership is entirely appropriate. Should we seek to develop future plans relevant to you and your constituents we will be pleased to engage with you. Until then we are busy with other matters elsewhere.

Kind Regards



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