The situation with coal production and use in the UK is changing. There are no new opencast mines proposed; only one proposed opencast coal extension and one existing opencast extraction site. However there are three new underground coal mine applications or extensions proposed and there was an increase in coal use in power stations between 2020 and 2021.
As you can see from the image above coal use in power stations has dropped dramatically since 2012, when 43% of electricity in the UK grid was produced from coal combustion, to just 1.72% in 2020.
Coal use hit a record low in 2020 supplying 253 TWh to the grid, and increased slightly the following year to 267 TWh, as the economy ramped back up from covid-19. (The data for 2022 is only for the first fortnight of the year). Thanks to MyGridGB for this data.
There are presently three applications for new/ extended underground coal mines.
Proposed underground mines
Aberpergwm Colliery (Energybuild Ltd) in Neath port Talbot had planning permission for a 40+ million tonne underground (anthracite) coal mine approved in 2018. The Coal Authority offered the coal company, a license to extract coal in January 2022. Coal Action Network are currently considering legal action against the Coal Authority and Welsh Government for failing to stop the mine being licenced.
Lochinvar (Australian New Age Explorations) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar in three sections, on the Scottish border. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044. The first of the three areas would supply an average 1.4 million tonnes of coal each year.
Woodhouse Colliery proposed by West Cumbria Mining had its proposal for a new 1.78 million tonne per year underground coking coal mine off Whitehaven, Cumbria called in by the Secretary of State in 2021. The Planning Inspectorate ran a Public Inquiry in September 2021 and the report is expected to be given to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove imminently.
There are four major UK steel producers, half are using coking coal and produce much higher emissions that the two which recycle scrap steel.
Port Talbot steel works, in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is the second biggest UK single site emitter of carbon dioxide. The plant uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces.
Currently British steel’s Scunthorpe plant can use a maximum of 25% to 30% recycled content using Basic Oxygen Steel making. It currently uses coking coal.
Liberty Steel, which has sites in Newport and in Tredegar, has said it aims to become a carbon-neutral steel producer by 2030. The site currently uses Electric Arc Furnaces and recycles scrap metal so does not use coking coal.
Celsa’s Cardiff steelworks uses 100% recycled scrap steel in its products and so does not need coking coal.
For more details see our report Coal in Steel.
Ratcliffe on Soar power was given a contract to supply 411 MW to the grid from coal in 2022/23 at a Capacity Market auction in Feb 2022. Ratcliffe's owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity operational by 2026. It has secured planning permission.
Drax power station is supposed to have stopped burning coal this year. However it has offered that it could stay online until 2024 to the UK government.
EDF are closing their West Burton coal power station in September 2022.
Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. It has been announced that Kilroot will stop consuming coal in September 2023.
Coal phase-out in the UK is expected by October 2024. Given that coal consumption in power stations is very low in the summer, the last generation could be April 2024.
 The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.
Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)
At the end of November 2021, we noticed the licence application for an extension to ‘Aberpergwm Colliery’ on the little-publicised webpage of the Coal Authority. This webpage contains a listing of all coal mine licences and licence applications and is a good one to bookmark and check back regularly…
42 million tonnes during the life of the extension + 30 million tonnes of “middling” coal to be dumped or put back into the coal mine.
Around 100 million tonnes of CO2 and up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane could be emitted during…
Energybuild hasn’t been keeping local people in the loop, so we thought we would! Volunteers from Neath Port Talbot Friends of the Earth have given out flyers in Glynneath to start conversations and direct people towards this information about the mine expansion…
“As one of the last major insurers without restrictions on coal insurance, AIG’s new commitments to reduce underwriting for coal, tar sands oil, and Arctic oil and gas are a major step forward for people and the planet,”
Update on coal extraction and use in the UK. The situation with coal production and use in the UK is changing. There are no new opencast mines proposed; only one proposed opencast coal extension and one existing opencast extraction site…
“It is a serious problem that John Neal has not been well enough briefed, or is just personally sceptical, about climate science and the findings of the International Energy Agency.”
Our Barrister’s pre-action letter convincingly puts the power to stop the Aberpergwm colliery extension licence firmly in the hands of Welsh Government Ministers. Now it is up to those Ministers to take their rhetoric and put it into swift, decisive action…
On 25th January 2022, whilst the Welsh and UK Governments continued to argue over which could stop it, The Coal Authority approved the full licence for an underground coal mine extension to Energybuild Ltd. The company can now mine a further 40 MILLION TONNES of coal until 2039…
Combined, both of you have received nearly 4000 emails from people who are dismayed by the news that the deep coal mine operated by EnergyBuild Ltd in Aberpergwm may imminently have the licence to extend it deconditionalised by The Coal Authority regulator…