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New Coal Deposits Found in the North Sea

New Coal Deposits Found in the North Sea

There are always horror stories about how quickly we are using up the world’s resources, especially about coal, possibly the most versatile of the fossil fuels. Coal is the largest electricity-generating energy source in the world, with almost every country – and every continent except Antarctica – either having its own coal reserves, or at least access to one.

However, with the amounts left on Earth, and the rate of production, our coal levels are thought to be running on empty between 100 and 200 years from now.

That is, until recently. Using seismic imaging, which primarily provides a picture of the layer of rocks beneath the surface of the ground, scientists have discovered large coal deposits under the North Sea that could potentially power Britain for centuries to come.

“We think there are between three trillion and 23 trillion tonnes of coal buried under the North Sea,” explained Dermot Roddy, who used to be Newcastle University’s Professor of Energy and is now Chief Technology Officer for an energy company called Five-Quarter. He said that these deposits could hold thousands of times the six billion tonnes of oil and gas that have already been taken from the area. “If we could extract just a few percent of that coal,” he added, “it would be enough to power the UK for decades, or centuries.”

The scientists were already aware of there being some coal deposits under the North Sea, but didn’t think they were accessible. There were also not aware of the size of the reserves, and although a true scale has still not been determined, a clearer picture has been provided by the seismic imaging. Geologists have also suggested that the deposits will be easier to extract than once thought, thanks to technological advances in recent years.

At the Royal Academy of Engineering conference later this year, Roddy will reveal and explain the proposals to sink boreholes into the North Sea seabed using a coastline rig near Tynemouth, in northeast England.

Professor Richard Selley, who specialises in the search for hydrocarbons beneath the Earth’s surface called petroleum exploration and has written over 80 papers about the study of sand, mud and clay, said that all the talk was about oil and gas ten years ago, but all that has changed with the development of seismic imaging. “[Seismic imaging] has become so sensitive that we can now pinpoint the sweet spots where shale gas, oil and coal are to be found,” he explained.

The technology could end up being used all around the world, and maybe even result in more coal deposits for everyone. And maybe we’re not going to run out of all of our resources as soon as we thought.

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