Over the next three years, the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry will put £12 million towards a R&D drive on cleaner coal technologies such as coal bed methane and underground coal gasification.

The UK Government expects this “seed-corn” money to generate around £60 million over the period, for joint industry and university projects supported by the Government’s science budget and EU funds. This in turn will help kick-start a five-year R&D programme proposed by the industry-led Foresight Task Force.

In 1998, the UK Government announced its decision to maintain a cleaner coal programme and to contribute to following up the recommendations of the Foresight Task Force. The Task Force’s Action Plan had recommended supporting R&D to technology targets covering capital and costs, plant efficiency, emissions, reliability and maintainability, and fuel flexibility. Cleaner coal technologies are not expected to become widespread on a commercial scale until 2010.

The DTI have therefore launched an Energy Paper setting out a strategy for developing cleaner coal technologies in collaboration with UK industry and universities.

One of the first tasks outlined in the Paper will be to establish an advisory committee which will oversee the new programme and review R&D project proposals. Membership will be drawn from manufacturers, generating companies and universities. The coal industry and trade associations will also be involved.

Launching the Energy Paper on cleaner coal, UK Energy Minister John Battle said: “Our policy aim is to maintain strong support for R&D in pursuit of the Foresight Task Force’s technology targets and recommendations, and so to achieve the significant contribution to future UK wealth creation that the Task Force identified could come from cleaner coal technology.”

Coal use worldwide is set to grow significantly over the next ten years in countries such as China and India, and is forecast to have doubled by 2020. Around 38% of the world’s electricity will still be generated from coal by 2020, and coal reserves are likely to last for many years.

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