Now King Coal is set to rule the waves… scientists claim vast reserves under the sea could power the nation for generations to come
A trillion tonnes of coal could be lying under the sea off Wales – according to scientists who say the vast deposits would be enough to keep the lights on for hundreds of years.
Scientists made the discovery after studying data from seismic tests and boreholes made for oil and gas exploration. Instead they used it to build up a picture of coal deposits.
Dr Harry Bradbury is chief executive of Five Quarter, the firm behind the discovery.
He said: “Off Wales as a whole, there is in all likelihood, more than one trillion tonnes of reserves as yet untouched.
“Not all of this would be usable or accessible, but it is still very large scale.”
Off the UK he estimated there was between three and 23 trillion tonnes.
Five Quarter is planning to sink its first boreholes in the North Sea as early as autumn. But, as yet, it has no plans for Wales.
“In the North and Irish Sea there is much more coal than anything we have on shore,” he said.
“When you look at the raw data I can’t even enunciate the biggest number because it has got so many zeros.”
The firm’s work revealed up to 20 layers of coal extending from the coast far out into the sea.
“We can say there are at least three trillion tons of coal sitting in the sea,” Dr Bradbury said.
“There is coal in Wales in Swansea Bay and in Liverpool Bay coming into Wales.”
There are also reserves off Anglesey.
“Certainly in Swansea Bay you have a billion to a billion-and-a-half tonnes of coal sitting out there,” Dr Bradbury said.
“Two billion tonnes of coal is, in energy terms, the amount of energy we have extracted from the totality of North Sea gas since exploration began.
“That gives you some sense of what you can do with three trillion tonnes.”
It is not all in “the right places”.
“Some may be too shallow and some too deep,” Dr Bradbury said.
He insisted anyone “who says we should leave this stuff in the ground” would have to answer to their grandchildren for the economic state of the country.
“Naysayers say we should be investing in renewables and more in the way of solar technologies but there are other things we can do,” he said.
Geologists have long known the UK’s offshore coal seams extend under the sea but were uncertain of the scale.
Energy firms ignored them because they were deemed inaccessible.
But technological advances have changed this. These include gasification where superheated steam and oxygen are pumped underground.