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Port Talbot steel transition

On 15th September 2023, The Guardian reported that Tata Steel accepted Government funding to avoid closing its steelworks in Port Talbot, South Wales, by decarbonising it instead – but at a loss of up to 3,000 jobs.

Big money for big changes

The UK Government is providing £500 million, and Tata Steel is expected to provide another £725 million. Most of this money will go to converting the sprawling steelworks from its current Basic Oxygen Furnaces to Electric Arc Furnaces. The former produces virgin steel from iron ore, heavily relying on coal for the chemical reaction. Electric Arc Furnaces recycles scrap steel without needing coal. Currently, the UK exports a considerable quantity of scrap steel abroad (over 8 million tonnes in 2021), and scrap steel is expected to greatly increase in abundance globally.

CO2 and the reason for change

Port Talbot steelworks is currently the 2nd highest source of CO2 from any single site in the UK. Transitioning this steelworks is expected to make a significant impact on the UK’s emissions. Steelworks around the world contribute 11% to global greenhouse gas emissions… rapid decarbonisation globally is essential to limit climate chaos and, alongside electric arc furnaces, alternatives are under development and testing that removes coal from the process of making virgin steel.

What about the workers?

However, steelworks employ many thousands of people around the world, whose labour has been essential for everything from vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure to household appliances. It’s essential steel workers and their unions are centred in the changes needed to decarbonise steelworks to ensure a just transition that doesn’t leave these workers behind. The planned decarbonisation of Port Talbot Steelworks has been reported not to follow the principles of a just transition. Instead, the company has reportedly shut unions out of its negotiations with the UK Government and there aren’t any reported programmes of retraining or support packages to equip workers facing redundancy with realistic prospects of finding alternative work that suits their experience or ambitions.

What we advocate for

Steel companies in Europe may be amongst the first to decarbonise their steelworks, so it is essential they set a good example for steel companies elsewhere to follow. European steelworks, therefore, must meaningfully engage with their workers and workers’ Unions from the outset of plans to decarbonise steelworks, focusing on those most impacted by potential changes. We are sceptical of top-down consultations on changes which often have foregone conclusions—engagement must be in the form of equal partners around the table. For workers, this can have the advantage of securing packages of support that are appropriate for their needs, whether that is to stay within the company or gain employment in another industry. Worker creativity may also reduce their own job losses and impacts—if they are able to meaningfully shape the transition process. Companies benefit from the creative capacity of workers who have on-the-ground expertise, greater trust in the changes ahead, reputational impacts, better worker morale and loyalty, and the wider fallout that structural unemployment can drive.

British Steel

British Steel, the UK’s only other producer of virgin steel and operated by Jingye, is also considering converting its steelworks to electric arc furnaces in the hope of accessing hundreds of million in Government funding to decarbonise the steelworks. British Steel has secured a £100 million contract to build one of the world’s biggest offshore wind plants being built at Teesworks. We hope that Jingye actively involves  workers at British Steel, and their unions, from the outset of any plans to transition its steelworks.

UK Coal round up

The recent Digest of UK Energy Statistics shows the coal situation for 2022. All unreferenced statistics come from this report and appendices.

Coal was bought by power stations last year in order to fulfil unexpected, short term contracts with the government worth £420 million to extend power station's lives while air quality environmental regulations were not enforced.

In 2022, coal mined in the UK mainly came from opencast coal mines. Production was down on previous years. Now, in September 2023, there is only one operating opencast coal mine, the illegal Ffos-y-fran mine. There is one significant sized deep coal mine; Aberpergwm colliery in Neath Port Talbot, which has been granted permission to expand. From this date there is only one coal power station available to generate electricity, down from 4 last year.

Coal use in power stations

While overall energy demand in 2022 was stable compared to 2021, demand met by coal in the energy mix fell by 15% compared to 2021, to 1.60% of total electricity supply. Wind, solar and hydro energy production rose to a record high level due to increased capacity and more favourable weather conditions, but unfortunately consumption of both gas and nuclear energy were also up.

Coal use in power stations has dropped dramatically since 2012, when 43% of electricity in the UK grid was produced from coal combustion. However, 4 coal power plants remained operational throughout 2022. Drax and West Burton power station's coal units were due to be closed before the end of 2022, but the UK Government paid £420 million to extend the operational lifespan of the coal units over winter 2022 into 2023. Coal stocks were 10% higher than in 2021 to facilitate this. Drax didn't operate in 2022 and is now decommissioning its coal units. It remains a high carbon power station, though, as it burns imported wood as biomass.

Power station closures

4 coal power stations operated in 2022. Now only Ratcliffe-on-Soar remains available to the grid.

Ratcliffe on Soar power station is due to close in September 2024.

In early 2020, Drax power station said there would be "formal closure of the coal units in September 2022". Decommissioning actually started in 2023, after the UK Government paid the power station to be on standby with coal during last winter. Drax didn't operate in 2022 and is now decommissioning its coal units. It remains a high carbon power station as, though, it burns imported wood.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is to be converted to gas. It was expected to stop consuming coal in September 2023, but this may have been brought forward marginally (unconfirmed).

West Burton coal power station closed at the end of March 2023 delayed by the UK Government from September 2022.

Coal phase-out in the UK is expected by October 2024. Given that coal consumption in power stations is very low, with periods of no consumption, in the summer, the last generation could be April 2024.

Underground mining

In 2022, coal production fell by 39% to a record low of 0.6 million tonnes, with opencast coal mining producing more than underground mines.[1]

The Scottish Government announced a de-facto ban on coal mining in October 2022, in protest against the expected approval of the Whitehaven coking coal mine. We anticipate this stopped a deep coal mine application by Australian company New Age Explorations at Lochinvar in the Scottish borders. The company hoped to produce coking coal via underground mining until 2044.

Campaigns against proposed underground mines

Aberpergwm Colliery (Energybuild Ltd) in Neath Port Talbot had planning permission for a 42 million tonne extension to its underground (anthracite) coal mine approved in 2018. The Coal Authority issued the coal company a license to extract this coal in January 2022. Coal Action Network are taking legal action against the Welsh Government for failing to stop the mine extension being licenced.

Woodhouse Colliery proposed by West Cumbria Mining Ltd had its proposal for a new 1.78 million tonne per year underground coking coal mine off Whitehaven approved by the Secretary of State in December 2022. The planning approval is subject to 2 legal challenges which are expected to be heard by the High Court in early 2024.

Opencast coal extraction

There are now no legally operating opencast coal mines in the UK.

Glan Lash opencast coal mine, Carmarthenshire (South Wales), had an extension application rejected in September 2023.

In September 2022, Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine in Merthyr Tydfil, was due to close after 15 years of operation. However, the mine has continued to operate with little action from the local council or Welsh Government. It is now expected to close at the end of November 2023, with no meaningful restoration of the land expected, as the company did not set aside the money to fulfil its contractual obligations in this regard. The guarantee bond of £15 million to be used in case this happens is far short of the estimated £120 million needed for restoration as per the original plan. The coal mining was originally approved by Welsh Government in 2005 as a way to restore a brownfield site at no cost to the public purse, an outcome that now appears remote.

Hartington opencast coal mine, Derbyshire closed at the end of Spring 2023.[2]

Imports

Coal imports rose 38% in comparison with 2021 to 6.4 million tonnes in 2022 as power stations rebuilt stocks after the UK Government payments over winter. The import quantity had been decreasing prior to this government intervention.

In 2022, the USA was the largest exporter of coal to the UK, supplying 39%. This was followed by the Russia with 16%. Russia’s proportion of total coal imports had fallen from being the largest supplier at 43% in 2021.

Coal from the USA was fairly evenly split between coking coal for steelworks and thermal coal for power stations.

Coal from Russia was largely for power stations.

Australia provided 12% of imported coal. 57% of which was for power stations, the rest for steelworks. 10% of coal came from South Africa, which was entirely for power stations. Colombia supplied 7% of imported coal all to power stations.

The European Union supplied 9% of all coal to the UK. This coal is unlikely to have been mined in the EU, it has most likely lost its identity as coal enters and leaves the main coal ports in Europe. Other countries made up the remainder of the imported coal.

The UK banned Russian coal imports in August 2022.

UK steel producers

There are 4 major UK steel producers, 2 of which are using coking coal and produce much higher emissions than 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.[3] The plant currently uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces. In 2022, Tata Steel said the plant had to decarbonise or close. In September 2023, Tata Steel accepted £500 million from the UK Government to transition to electric arc furnace, but job losses are expected.

British Steel
Currently, British Steel’s Scunthorpe plant can use a maximum of 25% to 30% recycled content using Basic Oxygen steelmaking. It currently uses coking coal but is also looking to secure governmental subsidies to build a new electric arc furnace to replace a blast furnace in efforts to decarbonise.

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.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

References

[1] compiled from Coal Authority, "Production and Manpower Statistics" for 2022

[2] Gov.uk "Coal mining production and manpower returns received by the Coal Authority April to June 2023." (July 2023)

[3] Ember, Coal Free Kingdom (13th November 2019) and Drax Group, Enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future page 39 (2019)

 

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

Media queries

References

[1] compiled from Coal Authority, "Production and Manpower Statistics" for 2022

[2] Gov.uk "Coal mining production and manpower returns received by the Coal Authority April to June 2023." (July 2023)

[3] Ember, Coal Free Kingdom (13th November 2019) and Drax Group, Enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future page 39 (2019)

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

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)

Coal Roundup May 2021

Opencast coal extraction

The last opencast coal mine in England should now have closed, as has East Pit in Neath Port Talbot Wales. This leaves two operating in Wales and none in Scotland.[1]

The existing mines, by company are:

Celtic Energy: Nant Helen, Powys (due to close December 2021)

Merthyr (South Wales): Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil (due to close in 2022)

Other former opencast sites are being put back. Banks Group is expected to vacate the Pont Valley, Durham in June 2021.

There are currently no planning applications for new opencast coal mines in the UK after Banks Group had three proposals refused in 2020 thanks to incredible campaigning by local groups.

Power Station Closures

Drax power station has stopped burning coal after decades of importing coal from the USA, Russia, Colombia and UK mines. Drax has dropped plans to convert the coal units to gas. Much of the wood for its biomass comes from the clear-felling of biodiverse forests in Europe and the Southern USA which are home to many rare and endangered species.

EDF are closing their West Burton coal power station in September 2022. West Burton burns coal from Banks Group’s opencast mines in the North East of England, as well as imported coal.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. It has recently been announced that Kilroot will stop consuming coal in September 2023.

At Ratcliffe on Soar power station the owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity. There is no planning permission for this yet. It is the only UK coal power station without an date announced for it to cease using coal.

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.

Underground Mining

There are currently no underground mines operating of significant size.

Proposed Underground Mines

West Cumbria Mining had their proposal for a new underground coking coal mine off Whitehaven, Cumbria called in by the Secretary of State. This means that the council's previous decisions to approve the application will be thoroughly investigated by the Planning Inspectorate in September 2021 before the Secretary of State decides whether the mine will be stopped.

New Age Explorations (an Australian company) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar, on the border between England and Scotland. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044.

UK Steel producers

There are four major UK steel producers:

Tata Steel
Port Talbot steel works, in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is the second biggest UK single site emitter of carbon dioxide.[2] The plant uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces.

Liberty

Liberty Steel, which has sites in Newport and in Tredegar, has said it aims to become a carbon-neutral steel producer by 2030.[3] The site currently uses Electric Arc Furnaces and recycles scrap metal so does not use coking coal.

British Steel

Currently British steel's Scunthorpe plant can use a maximum of 25% to 30% recycled content using Basic Oxygen Steel making.[4] It currently uses coking coal.

Celsa

Celsa's Cardiff steelworks uses 100% recycled scrap steel in its products and so does not need coking coal.[5]

Want to help in the fight against coal?

References

[1] The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.

[2] Ember, Coal Free Kingdom (13th November 2019) and Drax Group, Enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future page 39 (2019)

[3] https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/steel-carbon-emissions-port-talbot-19927484

[4] https://britishsteel.co.uk/who-we-are/sustainability/

[5] http://www.celsauk.com/

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

Coal Roundup September 2020

Opencast coal extraction

On the 8th September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government rejected Banks Group's application to mine coal at Highthorn close to Druridge Bay, Northumberland. This is the second time a Secretary of State has rejected this application, following Northumberland County Council's 2016 approval of the opencast mine application.

This is a huge victory for Save Druridge the local campaign group against the mine. Local resident, Local resident Lynne Tate said, “The thought of this area being once again torn up, for a destructive opencast site over a period of seven years was unimaginable.”

Banks Group also had an application to extend their existing opencast mine in the Pont Valley, which it calls, Bradley rejected in July by Durham County Council.

There is currently only one opencast coal mine operating in England, none in Scotland and three in Wales.

The existing mines, by company are:

  • Celtic Energy: 1) East Pit, Neath Port Talbot and 2) Nant Helen, Powys (closure December 2021)

  • Merthyr (South Wales): Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil

  • Hartington, Derbyshire.[1]

Banks Group proposed site:

Dewley Hill, on the outskirts of Newcastle, the planning hearing has been delayed by Covid protections.

Underground Mining

There are currently no underground mines operating of significant size

Proposed Underground Mines

West Cumbria Mining have amended their application for the land aspect of a new underground coking coal near Whitehaven in May 2020. If constructed this would produce coking coal for export for 50 years. Cumbria County Council has said a hearing date for a decision will be no earlier than October 2020.

New Age Explorations (an Australian company) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar, on the border between England and Scotland. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044.

Power Station Closures

Drax power station has announced that it will stop burning coal by March 2021 after almost five decades as one of western Europe’s most polluting power plants. Sadly the last two units are being replaced with another polluting fossil fuel, gas. Much of the wood which it burns comes from the clear-felling of biodiverse forests in Europe and the Southern USA which are home to many rare and endangered species.

EDF are reviewing the future of its West Burton power station, after the governmental support through the capacity market payments stop in September 2021. West Burton burns coal from Banks Group’s opencast mines in the North East of England, as well as imported coal.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. No timeline for the end of coal use has been announced.

At Ratcliffe on Soar power station the owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity. There is no planning permission for this yet. United Kingdom withouth incineration network (UKWIN) highlight the problems with incinerators including air pollution and climate change, with a campaign against an incinerator at Ratcliffe.

The alternative fuels proposed at Ratcliffe, Kilroot and Drax would result in slightly lower greenhouse gas emissions and not require coal mining. However, these changes are not solutions to the climate or air pollution crisis and they involve building new infrastructure reliant on combustion leaving us dependent on fossil fuels or high levels of domestic waste.

Coal phase-out In early February the Prime Minister said that the coal phase-out could be brought forward from the end of 2025 to October 2024. This is not soon enough for communities at the front-lines of fossil fuel extraction.

Reduced demand for electricity due to the covid pandemic means that no electricity has been generated from coal since the 10th April 2020. 55 days and counting at the point of writing (4th June 2020).

Stockpiles

Total UK coal stock levels increased in 2018 to 5.3 million tonnes, broadly similar to the previous year. [2]

There is already more coal above ground than the UK government predicts will be consumed if coal were phased-out in 2025. We don’t need to extract or import any more. This is especially so, if the phase-out date is brought forward.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

References

References

[1] The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.

[2] Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy, Statistical Press Release. UK Energy Statistics, 2019 & Q4 2019 (26 March 2020) page 6

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

Coal Roundup June 2020

COVID 19

Banks Group are continuing to operate the Bradley opencast in the Pont Valley, Durham despite Covid-19.

The lockdown has forced councils to suspend planning hearings or change decision making processes. This is expected to mean delays to the planning hearings for Dewley Hill and Bradley West (see below).

There has been no decision announced regarding Banks Group’s Druridge Bay (Highthorn) application. Robert Jenrick is said to have made his decision but the timing of his statement is affected by the corona virus pandemic.

 

Power stations closure plans

Drax power station has announced that it will stop burning coal by March 2021 after almost five decades as one of western Europe’s most polluting power plants. Sadly the last two units are being replaced with another polluting fossil fuel, gas. Much of the wood which it burns comes from the clear-felling of biodiverse forests in Europe and the Southern USA which are home to many rare and endangered species.

EDF are reviewing the future of its West Burton power station, after the governmental support through the capacity market payments stop in September 2021. West Burton burns coal from Banks Group’s opencast mines in the North East of England, as well as imported coal.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. No timeline for the end of coal use has been announced.

At Ratcliffe on Soar power station the owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity. There is no planning permission for this yet. United Kingdom withouth incineration network (UKWIN) highlight the problems with incinerators including air pollution and climate change, with a campaign against an incinerator at Ratcliffe.

The alternative fuels proposed at Ratcliffe, Kilroot and Drax would result in slightly lower greenhouse gas emissions and not require coal mining. However, these changes are not solutions to the climate or air pollution crisis and they involve building new infrastructure reliant on combustion leaving us dependent on fossil fuels or high levels of domestic waste.

Coal phase-out In early February the Prime Minister said that the coal phase-out could be brought forward from the end of 2025 to October 2024. This is not soon enough for communities at the front-lines of fossil fuel extraction.

Reduced demand for electricity due to the covid pandemic means that no electricity has been generated from coal since the 10th April 2020. 55 days and counting at the point of writing (4th June 2020).

 

Opencast coal

The existing mines, by company are:

  • Banks Group: 1) Bradley, County Durham (Banks are trying to extend to extract a further 90 thousand tonnes of coal currently awaiting planning hearing, over 5,000 people have objected. 2) Brenkley Lane, Newcastle/ Northumberland border.
  • Celtic Energy: 1) East Pit, Neath Port Talbot and 2) Nant Helen, Powys (closure December 2021)
  • Merthyr (South Wales): Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil
  • One mine with low output in in Derbyshire.[1]

Closing sites

Banks Group proposed sites:

Highthorn (Druridge Bay), Northumberland. This application was approved by Northumberland County Council in 2016. Central government then over turned the decision in 2018. This was appealed and a new decision is still awaited.

Dewley Hill, on the outskirts of Newcastle, the planning hearing has been delayed by Covid protections.

Extension at Bradley opencast (see above).

Underground mining

There are currently no underground mines operating of significant size.

Proposed underground mines West Cumbria Mining have amended their application for the land aspect of a new underground coking coal near Whitehaven in May 2020. If constructed this would produce coking coal for export for 50 years. Cumbria County Council will decide the application in July 2020.

New Age Exploration (an Australian company) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar, on the border between England and Scotland. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044.

Stockpiles

Total UK coal stock levels increased in 2018 to 5.3 million tonnes, broadly similar to the previous year. [2]

There is already more coal above ground than the UK government predicts will be consumed if coal were phased-out in 2025. We don’t need to extract or import any more. This is especially so, if the phase-out date is brought forward.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

References

[1] The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.

[2] Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy, Statistical Press Release. UK Energy Statistics, 2019 & Q4 2019 (26 March 2020) page 6

Image

The photograph above shows Shotton opencast in late May 2020. Coal production has ceased. Coal is still processed and stockpiled from this mine and from Bradley opencast. In the background are one of the overburden mounds.

Coal Roundup June 2020

Opencast coal

In September 2018 there were 10 operating opencast sites in the UK. Between July and September 2019, 601,599 tonnes of coal were produced.[3] In 2018, 2.6 million tonnes of coal were extracted by opencast mining. An all time low.[1][5]

The mines are:

  • Banks Group: 1) Bradley, County Durham (Banks are trying to extend to extract a further 90 thousand tonnes of coal currently awaiting planning hearing, over 5,000 people have objected. 2) Brenkley Lane, Newcastle/ Northumberland border, and 3) Shotton, Northumberland (stops producing coal February 2020).
  • Banks Group proposed sites: 1) Highthorn (Druridge Bay), Northumberland. This application was approved by Northumberland County Council in 2016. Central government then over turned the decision in 2018. This was appealed and a new decision is still awaited. 2) Dewley Hill, on the outskirts of Newcastle, awaiting a planning hearing.
  • Hargreaves: 1) Field House, Durham (started 2018) and 2) House of Water, East Ayrshire which produces coal for non-power station markets
  • HM Project development: Halton-Lea-Gate, Northumberland
  • Celtic Energy: 1) East Pit, Neath Port Talbot and 2) Nant Helen, Powys (closure December 2021)
  • Merthyr (South Wales): Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil
  • One mine with low output in in Derbyshire.

Underground mining

There are currently no underground mines operating of significant size. The two underground mines produced 32,431 tonnes of coal, just 5.1% of the coal extracted in the UK between July and September 2019.[3]

Proposed underground mine West Cumbria Mining were given permission for the land aspect of a new underground coking coal near Whitehaven in 2019. If constructed this would produce coking coal for export for 50 years. The decision is currently subject to a Judicial Review, which was allowed to start in February 2020, into the legitimacy of the permission.

Power stations

In 2018, 11.95 million tonnes of coal were consumed by UK power stations and industry.[1] In the year from the end of January 2019 to the beginning of February 2020 coal supplied the UK’s electricity grid with 5.5 Terawatt hours, amounting to 2.1% of electricity produced.[2]

There are currently five UK power stations, including Fiddlers Ferry which closes in March 2020. In early February the Prime Minister said that the coal phase-out could be brought forward from the end of 2025 to October 2024. This is not soon enough for communities at the front-lines of fossil fuel extraction.

  • Ratcliffe-on-Soar, (Nottinghamshire) Uniper.
  • Drax, (North Yorkshire) Drax (Drax wants to convert the remain two coal units to burn gas, the rest of the power station has converted to biomass).
  • West Burton, (Nottinghamshire) EDF.
  • Kilroot, (County Antrim) Northern Ireland. This is a coal and oil power station, part of the all Ireland electricity grid. It is not covered by the 2024 phase-out date.
  • Fiddlers Ferry, (Nottinghamshire) SSE. (Closes March 2020).

Stockpiles

Total UK coal stock levels increased in 2018 to 5.3 million tonnes, which was 0.2 million tonnes higher than in 2017.[5]

There is already more coal above ground than the UK government predicts will be consumed if coal were phased-out in 2025. We don’t need to extract or import any more. This is especially so, if the phase-out date is brought forward.

Imports

In 2018 imports of coal were 10.1 million tonnes, which was up by 19 per cent compared to 2017.[5] Net imports accounted for 80 per cent of the UK’s supply for both power stations and industry (ignoring stockpile changes and exports).[6][3]

  • 80% of coal consumed in the UK is imported
  • 37% of coal consumed in the UK is imported from Russia, (for power stations and steel making) this is predominantly from the Kuzbass region which Coal Action Network and Fern wrote about in 2018.
  • 28% was imported from the USA (for power stations and steel making)
  • 5% came from Colombia (for power stations) which Coal Action Network visited in 2019 and has written about here
  • 5% came from Australia (for steel making)
  • 5% came from other countries or the origin was lost.[6][3]

Coal imports are falling, but not quick enough. Total coal imports in the third quarter of 2019 were 40% lower than in the same period in 2018. This was the lowest value on record.[7]

Exports

Celtic Energy and Hargreaves are exporting coal.[8] In 2018 exports amounted to 600,000 tonnes.[1] In 2019 this amount has increased each quarter.[9]

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References