An alternative low-carbon solution for heating

Academics at Durham University have been pioneering research into how warm water found in abandoned coal mines could be harnessed to provide central heating for houses.

This work could help provide the UK with an alternative low-carbon solution for heating. In turn it would increase our national energy security, help the environment and deliver economic impact through supporting a new business sector and creating thousands of new jobs.

University Quality-Related (QR) research funding was used to develop the research in its early stages and supported academics Dr Charlotte Adams and Professor Jon Gluyas to work on location in and around the Durham coalfields to test whether the right conditions existed.

The team could not initially secure funding from the Research Councils, partly due to the research falling between the remits of different councils. In addition, decarbonisation of heat was not seen as a high priority.

This is now changing. The Government’s new Industrial Strategy recognises the importance of decarbonisation of heating. In a debate on geothermal energy in Parliament in June 2018, the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth encouraged bids to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to help advance innovation in geothermal energy in former mines. She noted that: “the opportunity to decarbonise heat, create local productivity and resource, and generate innovation that we can export elsewhere in the world is incredibly interesting”.

The flexibility of QR funding gave the University the opportunity to support an emerging area of research, which enhanced the knowledge base in the UK and supported engagement with local communities. The work at Durham means the UK is now much better placed to explore the geothermal potential of our landscape, with exciting possibilities for low-carbon innovation in the future.

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