William Eichler 02 December 2020

Mapping tool reveals heat stored in abandoned coal mines

Local authorities can now for the first time access maps which reveal the extent to which heat is stored in Britain’s abandoned coal mines, the Government has announced.

Mines are warmed by natural geothermal processes and where they are flooded, they can be developed as a source of low carbon energy to heat homes and businesses. According to the Coal Authority, one quarter of the UK’s population live above abandoned coal mines.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Coal Authority have released an interactive map showing where the mines are and the extent by which temperatures increase with depth.

The new mapping tool will be freely available to use by developers, planners and researchers to identify opportunities to investigate the use of mine water as a sustainable heat source.

‘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,’ said BGS geoscientist Gareth Farr, who led the project.

‘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.’

The Coal Authority’s head of innovation, Jeremy Crooks, commented: ‘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 Heat Network Investment Programme, with others to follow.’

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