Former coal mines could be converted into a geothermal energy facility

Monty Rakusen | Culture | Getty Images

A project to harness geothermal energy from disused, flooded coal mines in the north east of England took another step forward this week after receiving planning permission for an initial test phase.

In an announcement on Monday, South Tyneside Council said the development would “draw geothermal energy from abandoned flooded mines in the former Hebburn colliery.” The Hebburn colliery opened at the end of the 18th century and closed in 1932.

The idea is for the project to heat buildings owned by the council working on the project with Durham University and the UK Coal Authority.

The UK’s closed mines could prove to be a useful source of geothermal energy in the years to come, which the US Department of Energy calls “a vital, clean source of energy”.

As the Coal Authority notes, “when the underground mines are abandoned, the pumps that kept them dry often turn off and the mines fill with water.”

Geological processes heat the water and the temperature remains stable all year round.

Two wells are to be drilled in Hebburn to draw water from the mines. Tests are to be carried out to ensure that the project is feasible.

Eventually, if things go according to plan, a water heat pump will be used to “extract heat from mine water before it is compressed to a much higher temperature”. The drilling work and the well construction should be completed by autumn.

“Work on the testing phase of this project will begin immediately,” said Tracey Dixon, Chair of South Tyneside Council, in a statement released Monday.

Dixon added that the project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund with more than £ 3.9 million (US $ 5.48 million), “is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 319 tonnes per year” .

The UK has had a long relationship with coal mining, but the decline of the industry has hit many communities hard and is an emotional issue.

Recently, plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria, north-west England have sparked much debate, not least because the UK will host the COP26 climate summit later this year. The fate of the project has yet to be determined.

The Hebburn Colliery project is one of several in the UK looking to introduce new energy technologies to old coal mining sites.

In March it was announced that a coal mine in north east England that was being converted into a waste disposal facility would be upgraded using a range of sustainable technologies and design features.

The project to upgrade the Morrison Busty Depot in County Durham focuses on building a 3 megawatt solar farm that will power the site’s operations.

In addition, charging stations for electric vehicles will be integrated into the design of the development and a battery storage system will be built.

The Annfield Plain village depot dates back to the 1920s when it was known as the Morrison Busty Colliery. The coal mine was closed in 1973.

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