A New Use for Inoperative UK Coal Mines is Being Piloted

Non-operational coal mines in the UK may yet have a new purpose; heating businesses and homes. This will be done by using warm water from flooded mines. The mines may also be used in horticulture to provide heat to growing houses. In the coastal town of Seaham close to Newcastle, in the Seaham Garden Village, 750 homes are being designed that will use water drawn from the unused mines. This will be a steady heat source, unchanged by exterior elements and having the ability to supply heating energy of 6 megawatts with no carbon outflows.

The head of innovation at the Coal Authority in the UK, Jeremy Crooks, stated that at the moment, pumping stations processed 100 megawatts of heat energy. As there is currently no use for this heat, it evaporates into the surroundings. The project is estimated to be 10% below gas heating pricing. However, many factors influence the amount of heat a mine can produce and it should be noted that the age, location as well as the structure of a mine can influence its geothermal capacity.

Efficient mine management and water flowing consistently creates a safer environment for heat-mining projects as compared to standard geothermal drilling. In addition to this, less boreholes are required as mine shafts carry water easily as compared to the underground layers of permeable rocks carrying water that is utilized in geothermal heating projects. Proper designs by developers will ensure water can travel a longer distance underground while covering a shorter length above ground.

Despite district heating being a fairly new idea in the UK, a few European nations, for example, Sweden, already make use of it in their homes. National Grid, an energy distributor, published a report in July stated that the UK would be required to emulate Sweden in order to meet the goal of zero net emissions by the year 2050. To achieve this zero net emissions goal, the UK would need to have at least 3 million homes using community heating despite the current rate projecting 1.5 million homes in 2050. Currently, the number stands at 500,000 dwellings on the community heating plan in 2019.

Charlotte Adams of the University of Newcastle, who studied mine water assessment and recovery has been quoted saying that it is expected that the number of pumping stations will grow as water quantities in abandoned mines would return to their earlier levels.

It is yet to be seen what companies like Rio Tinto Plc (NYSE: RIO), the world’s second-largest mining company, thinks of the new use of inoperative coal mines.

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