Extracting energy from underground in the Midlands

People demonstrating against Cuadrilla's fracking operations Fracking is controversial and has attracted a lot of local opposition

I'm standing in for Patrick Burns this week on Sunday Politics in the West Midlands.

It's fracking that gets all the attention of course but there are in fact a whole new raft of technologies looking to extract energy from hard to reach places under the ground. This week on the Sunday Politics we'll be looking at some of these new ideas and what impact they might have for bad and good on the Midlands.

Of course this region is home to the headquarters of energy company Cuadrilla based in Lichfield. At the centre of much fracking controversy in Balcombe, Sussex, they're tight-lipped and despite several approaches have so far chosen not to talk fracking on TV screens in the Midlands.

Mind you, it might be a pretty short appearance if they did because the truth is the Midlands is geology ill-suited for the easy exploitation of shale gas through fracking. Given the scale of opposition in general, it makes much more sense to go for areas of the country where the returns could be much larger.

But there's plenty of coal here in the Midlands and there are all sorts of newish techniques on the horizon to exploit our reserves. It might be too difficult to mine directly but in Warwickshire there's talk of setting coal seams on fire and extracting the gas that's produced. In Staffordshire they want to pump water into the coal to push out the methane trapped inside.

Environmentalists tend to lump all these technologies together. That's useful because a problem with one can be used to raise doubts about all the others. But there are benefits to these new technologies too.

So on Sunday Politics we'll be looking at why we won't see fracking in the Midlands but what we might see instead.

And we'll be asking our political guests and experts in the studio about the problems governments face making long-term energy plans in the teeth of often fierce local resistance. Plus, just for fun, why the government's entire approach to fracking might be completely wrong and lay them open to legal challenge.

We'd welcome your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

David Gregory-Kumar Article written by David Gregory-Kumar David Gregory-Kumar Science & Environment correspondent, BBC News

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  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    'setting coal seams on fire and extracting the gas that's produced' is fraught with problems.....Underground coal gasification (UCG) was originally proposed in 1868 but has always been beset by problems. Today, the main problems are not technology but environmental problems, principal being subsidence and a massive increase in carbon emissions. Let's concentrate on Green Energy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    There's no obvious way to exploit any natural resource without causing some disturbance or risk, with windmills or coalmines. All our activities leave footprints.
    We do need to be careful that we don't prejudice our future opportunities because of reported problems from the US where controls may vary from state to state.
    Be careful, yes, but let's have facts, not emotions.
    Tin hat on.



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