BACK TO TOP

Coal round up February 2022

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.

Coal use in power stations

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.

Underground mining

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.

Opencast coal extraction

There is currently an application to extend a previously operated mine at Glan Lash in Camarthanshire by Bryn Bach Coal.

The last existing opencast coal mine in the UK is Ffos-y-fran, operated by Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd in Merthyr Tydfil, it is widely reported to be due to close in October 2022.

UK steel producers

There are four major UK steel producers, half are using coking coal and produce much higher emissions that the two which recycle scrap steel.

Tata Steel
Port Talbot steel works, in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is the second biggest UK single site emitter of carbon dioxide.[1] The plant uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces.

British Steel
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

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

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.

Power station closures

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.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

Reference

[1] 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)

New Coal Action Network report ~ Coal in Steel: Problems and solutions

Coal Action Network is excited to release a new report - Coal in Steel: problems and solutions

Coal in Steel is aimed at those looking for background information to campaigns against proposed new coking coal mines and considering how coal needs to be phased out of steel production. The report counters the positions of companies arguing for an ongoing need for coking coal in the steel industry. Coal in Steel is UK focused, but the coking coal mines proposed would export coal, to Europe or beyond.

The report answers questions such as:

  • When is coking coal used rather than thermal coal?

  • How is coking coal consumed by the steel industry?

  • What climate impacts does burning coking coal have?

  • What are the social and ecological impacts of mining coal?

  • How can we decarbonise the steel sector?

  • What is the government doing about steel sector emissions?

  • Why new coking coal mines are a step in the wrong direction.

The public inquiry into West Cumbria Mining Ltd's proposed 2.78mtpa coking coal mine opened last week. After the planning inspector gives his recommendation, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will decide whether this application can extract coal to be sold predominantly to foreign markets. This report answers the arguments raised in support of this, and similar, applications.

Key facts in the report include:

  1. Two of the three biggest single site carbon emitters in the UK are Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks and British Steel's Scunthorpe steelworks, which use coking coal.

  2. Steel is already being produced in two of the four major UK steelworks via electric arc furnaces and recycled scrap steel, resulting in much lower emissions and no need for coal usage.

  3. The British government is considering the implications of the recommendation of its Climate Change Committee to ‘set targets for ore-based steelmaking to reach near-zero emissions by 2035’.

  4. Green hydrogen is already being used to produce steel without coal or large emissions, with project such as HYBRIT in Sweden having already sold low emission steel. Many more projects are expected to follow suit before 2030.

  5. Four of the five world's biggest steel makers have made strong commitments to net-zero carbon steel and drastic coal use reduction by 2050.

  6. There is no such thing as carbon neutral coking coal.

Download the Coal in Steel: problems and solutions report, or our one page summary to find out more.