LEADERS of a multi-billion pound project to harvest energy from undersea coal have rejected claims the scheme threatens the North-East’s heritage coast.

As reported in The Northern Echo in January, Five Quarter Energy is developing plans to tap into the vast reserves under the North Sea.

But Friends of the Earth North East (FoE) says that risks creating a pollution headache for generations to come and some of its members staged a protest outside the firm’s Newcastle office at the weekend.

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A Five Quarter spokeswoman said it was very surprised at the move, as several directors had held talks with FoE members in June.

She dismissed the group’s claims as unfounded, unscientific and alarmist and accused it of misleading the public.

Five Quarter would convert carbonaceous rocks into gas via a chemical process deep below the sea, not burn coal, she said, and all greenhouses gases would be captured, stored or used.

In response, FoE spokesman Simon Bowen said the group had a 40-year history of informing public debate in a robust and evidence-based manner.

Meanwhile, Five Quarter chief executive Harry Bradbury has announced he will devote the week beginning December 1 to answering the public’s questions. To register, email: info@five-quarter.com

Five Quarter’s plans, which it calls deep gas winning, could create and protect thousands of North-East jobs, as a huge swathe of the North Sea stretching from Sunderland to the Scottish border and miles out to sea is harvested for what the firm calls “green energy”.

For more information, visit five-quarter.com