AN energy company insisted it remained keen to generate energy by "gasifying" millions of tonnes of coal under Swansea Bay, despite its test drilling licence expiring.
Clean Coal was awarded an exploratory licence to test drill under the bay in 2009 but, according to the Coal Authority, the licence expired at midnight on Saturday.
A spokesman for the authority, which determines such licences, told the Post last Friday afternoon that it had not received any documentation requesting a licence extension.
"The Coal Authority confirms that no application has been received to extend the terms of this licence," he said.
It meant that in effect Clean Coal would, he said, have to "start from scratch" if it wanted to obtain another licence to test drill in the bay.
Clean Coal chairman Rohan Courtney said the company would be contacting the Coal Authority today, and insisted that expiring licences were nothing unusual in the energy sector.
"I want to do the Swansea Bay project," he said. "We are committed to it as we have always been."
Clean Coal wants to ignite the coal under the bay in a process called underground coal gasification, and convert the resulting gas into electricity.
In January, Mr Courtney said exploratory drilling under the bay could take place this year. He said the gas could also be piped to the Tata steelworks or be used to produce, among other things, fertiliser.
"Swansea Bay is the first one we want to do," he said at the time. "The reaction we have had has been very positive. The Welsh Government has been supportive."
He told the Post yesterday that test drilling was now likely to take place next year.
In a separate development, proposals for a Swansea Bay tidal lagoon have been set out, as previously reported in the Post.
There have been several applications to test drill for gas in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
The latest, at the RSPCS Llys Nini animal centre, Penllergaer, has been called in for discussion by ward councillor Wendy Fitzgerald.