Coastal trek by anti-fracking protesters in the North East

A map showing the licence areas for Five-Quarter's Deep Gas Winning technology.
A map showing the licence areas for Five-Quarter's Deep Gas Winning technology.

Protesters from across the North East will begin a 73-mile, four-day coastal walk and kayak from Alnmouth to Hartlepool tomorrow to raise awareness about a controversial energy extraction process.

The event has been organised by Frack Free Cleveland, which claims that the coastline is under threat from Five-Quarter, which owns five licence areas for underground coal gasification (UCG).

Opponents say that the company’s licence areas contain two billion tonnes of coal that they propose to burn to produce gas using an experimental process with a track record of failure.

However, at an event in Alnwick last summer organised by Friends of the Earth, Five-Quarter’s Professor Paul Younger explained that the company has developed a process called Deep Gas Winning (DGW), which is different, and safer, than UCG. The process turns coal and the surrounding rocks directly into gas underground, but unlike fracking, no chemicals go into the ground – only steam and oxygen.

Professor Younger was keen to distinguish between their methods and UCG, saying that whereas UCG takes place at shallow depths on land using lots of pipework and long chambers, DGW is under the sea at great depth in much smaller, finite chambers. The boreholes are just nine inches in diameter. Nonetheless, many environmentalists remain unconvinced.

The trek, which aims to make the people of Northumberland and Durham aware of Five-Quarter’s UCG plans, will see walkers and kayakers start at 9am tomorrow from Alnmouth beach and end in Hartlepool on Tuesday with a meeting to launch Frack Free Hartlepool at Hartlepool Rovers FC.

There is a Facebook event page for the start of the walk and kayak at Alnmouth as well as for the launch event in Hartlepool.

Alex Harris, from Frack Free Cleveland, said: “Underground coal gasification is an extreme energy extraction process which involves setting fire to coal seams underground and uses processes similar to coalbed methane and shale gas/oil fracking. Our entire beautiful North East coastline from Alnwick to Hartlepool has been licensed for this experimental technology which has a proven track record of disaster in onshore trials and has never been tried offshore anywhere.”