Cluff Natural Resources is claiming “significant progress” in its venture to extract gas from under the Firth of Forth.

The AIM-quoted energy group headed by Algy Cluff said its agreement with oil services giant Halliburton was accelerating development of its gas and underground coal gasification (UCG) assets in the UK. The partners were currently working together on the drilling of one or more wells on the company’s five conventional licences in the Southern North Sea. At the same time Halliburton was providing technical and geological assistance for those projects and for the Kincardine UCG project in the Firth of Forth.

The company said the current work would lead to submission of a planning application for a UCG production test at Kincardine.

The Scottish licence is one of nine giving Cluff access to five different coal basins in Scotland, England and Wales, and has been targeted by the group as the UK's first deep offshore UCG project. However, it has hit immediate opposition from environmental groups calling for the technology to be bracketed with fracking and subjected to full analysis by the Scottish government.

Mr Cluff, chairman and chief executive, said: “We are excited about the prospect of continuing to develop our strategic relationship with Halliburton with a view to accelerating the development and commercialisation of our assets and look forward to providing further updates in due course.”

Cluff says the establishment of a new UCG industry in the UK will generate tax revenues and employment, with skills requirements similar to other energy industries currently in decline, and will increase UK security of energy supply.