He sounds like something out of a PG Wodehouse novel.
Algy Cluff is real, but that doesn’t mean he’s not something of a character in the City. The septuagenarian oil and gas entrepreneur has certainly had his fair share of experiences, from serving in the Guards and the SAS to writing dispatches from Vietnam for The Guardian. He is also a former owner of The Spectator, in the 1980s, selling on the magazine to the Telegraph Group.
And in the business world?
He made his first fortune with Cluff Oil in the 1970s, discovering the key Buchan field in the North Sea and later selling the business to BP for a meaty profit. Since then he’s set up a series of other mining and resources companies. Last year he stepped down as chairman of Cluff Gold, now known as Amara Mining.
What’s he up to now?
Algy, whose real name is John Gordon Cluff, has entered the race to exploit the North Sea’s vast coal reserves. He plans to do that through underground coal gasification, which for the uninitiated involves turning coal into gas through heating it. Yesterday his latest venture, Aim-listed Cluff Natural Resources, revealed it had been awarded two licences, in nearby Merseyside and north Wales.
How does gasification compare with other new techniques?
In his eyes, it’s a clear winner: “There has been much talk of wind, but it requires government subsidies and is an eye-sore. There has also been much talk of the potential for shale, but that is also an eyesore and is pretty expensive. The merit of this new technology is that it is not an eyesore.”
Is he on to a good thing?
Let’s see. The two licences are for coal seams in estuaries. If he is able to exploit these successfully using recent developments in drilling, he plans to move on to the North Sea’s massive, as yet untapped, reserves, where the world would be his oyster.