An energy firm, whose plans to extract methane gas in Scotland have been brought to a standstill amid public opposition, has temporarily ceased trading on the stock exchange as it seeks more money from investors.

Dart Energy has sought a ­trading halt on the Australian Securities Exchange as it works to increase investment among its shareholders.

The firm said it was a normal business practice to make such a move as it restructures the company.

It comes after its core project was put on hold for up to a year, with a public inquiry to determine whether it can proceed with its coal seam gas (CSG) development at Airth, near Falkirk.

Friends of the Earth, who are strongly against the company proposals, claim that Dart Energy is on the brink of collapse, which the firm strongly denies.

Trading in Dart Energy will be on hold until Wednesday, when an announcement is due.

Dart Energy currently has no income stream with a public inquiry called for by Dart after two local authorities failed to make a decision on the controversial proposals, pushing back production by around a year.

The firm, which is based in Australia, wants to drill 22 wells at 14 sites to move to full gas production after more than nine years of exploration at the site.

The company has a £330 million contract with Scottish and Southern Energy to turn gas extracted from the Airth site into electricity but work has been unable to proceed given delays to securing planning permission.

Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland Campaigns Co-ordinator, said: "This latest blow to Dart Energy's coalbed methane plans at Airth shows a company on the brink of collapse.

"With shares suspended at 10 Australian cents, investors are right to be wary. Dart was kicked out of Australia this year, and opposition to its unconventional gas developments in Scotland is mounting daily with its flagship Airth project stuck in a public inquiry process.

"Dart should give up now before it wastes any more of its investors' money. Unconventional gas is not wanted and not needed here in Scotland, or anywhere."

Dart announced to investors last week that its main focus was to progress its coal seam gas (CSG) projects in Scotland and the exploration of its English shale gas projects. As a result, the company was "seeking to exit, relinquish, sell or farm-down assets not consistent with this strategy," a statement said.

The company is in the process of finalising its full year accounts, which are due by the end of the month,

A spokesman for the firm said yesterday: "Trading halts on the ASX are normal course of business when a capital raising is contemplated."