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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2007, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Expert predicts 'coal revolution'
Miners at colliery
The North East's last deep coal mine closed in 2005
The north-east of England could lead a second coal revolution within the next five years, an expert has claimed.

Paul Younger, Professor of Energy and Environment at Newcastle University, said there was enough untapped coal reserves in the UK to last 400 years.

He leads a consortium hoping to extract and capture gas by pumping in super-hot steam and oxygen into untapped seams.

UK Coal closed the region's last deep mine at Ellington, Northumberland, in 2005, claiming it was no longer viable.

Prof Younger said that despite centuries of mining, only about a quarter of the North East's coal resources had been used up, with "vast amounts" remaining.

'Novel industries'

He now wants to access these reserves using "underground coal gasification".

The process involves drilling boreholes into the coal, pushing steam and oxygen into one hole and drawing out the hot gas from another.

He said: "I think this is a wonderful springboard to a renewable future. Now we have cleaner ways of using fossil fuels to get there.

"By drilling boreholes, no-one has to go underground. It's a much cleaner and safer opportunity for the people involved.

"In the North East we're not scared of novel industries. There's still an appetite for engineering in the North East. I think it will be very popular in the region."

He said he would like to see the process up-and-running in the region within five years.

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