The Coal Authority and the British Geological Survey have released an interactive map that can be used to identify opportunities to investigate the use of mine water as a “sustainable heat source”
The abandoned coal mines across the UK are being developed as a source of low-carbon energy.
A statement by the Coal Authority, a non-departmental government body, said that up to one quarter of Britain’s population live above abandoned coal mines.
It revealed that the mines are warmed by natural geothermal processes and where the sites have been flooded, these are now being developed as a source of low-carbon energy to heat homes and businesses.
Map of UK abandoned coal mines can identify opportunities to use mine water as “sustainable heat source”
The Coal Authority and the British Geological Survey (BGS) have released an interactive map showing where the UK’s mines are located and the extent by which temperatures increase with depth – and it can be used to identify opportunities to investigate the use of mine water as a “sustainable heat source”.
BGS geoscientist Gareth Farr, who led the project, said: “This has been a very exciting piece of work. It’s the first time we have been able to visualise the temperature of Britain’s coalfields.
“We have found records of heat temperatures going back more than 100 years and compared them to temperatures in the mines now and found them to be quite similar.
“This is a clear indication that geothermal processes that create this heat will be here for a long time to come.
“Combined with other layers of data, the maps provide an important groundwork for developers, local authorities and scientists to explore new mine water heating schemes, and we are hopeful they will be of value to inform policy decision-making.”
Potential to “kick-start a new renewable industry”
The UK government has a target to increase the number of homes on heat networks from 2% to 18% by 2050.
The Coal Authority said it is recognised that geothermal energy from mines, combined with heat pump technology, could provide a “sustainable energy source for these networks that is both local and low cost”.
Technical specialists at the government body claim there is “potential to kick-start a new renewable industry”, creating employment, tackling climate change and attracting investment to the coalfield communities “previously disadvantaged by mine closures”.
When aligned with the government’s recently announced 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, the Coal Authority revealed the warm water in abandoned coal mines is now being seen as a viable new form of sustainable energy with the potential to play a “vital role” in making homes and public buildings greener, warmer and more energy efficient.
Jeremy Crooks, the Coal Authority’s head of innovation, said: “When miners were working in hot, dusty conditions, they would not have known that their efforts and the heat they worked in would one day create a sustainable source of energy for hundreds of years to come.
“We are currently reviewing more than 30 potential heat network opportunities using geothermal mine energy. Seaham Garden Village and Gateshead are the first two such schemes to secure funding from the government’s £320m ($427m) Heat Network Investment Programme, with others to follow.”
The interactive maps highlight areas where warm water has been abstracted by pumping, which creates opportunities to harvest heat without drilling into the workings.
Crooks said: “Heating accounts for 44% of energy use in the UK and 32% of its air pollution. It’s ironic that mining coal, a fossil fuel, would provide access to a low carbon, clean air, energy source that will last far longer than the 200 years of intensive mining that created this opportunity.
“The maps we’ve jointly produced is a visual indication of how real and exciting this opportunity is.”