Mine water heat
The Coal Authority is working with partners to unlock the heat within our historical coal mine network, to transform the homes and workplaces of the future.
As part of our work to make a better future for people and the environment in mining areas, we’re exploring opportunities to use mine water to heat and cool homes and businesses.
Water within the mines is warmed by natural processes and can, if sustainably managed, provide a continuous supply of heat. Mine water temperatures are not affected by seasonal variations and, subject to the right support, mine water can provide renewable, secure, low carbon heating for buildings in coalfield areas.
With heating accounting for 40% of energy use in the UK, mine water heat could improve the sustainability of the places where we live and work. Mine water heat could also play a part in the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change and support its net zero future.
The Coal Authority are working with academics, local authorities, central government and others to help realise the potential of mine water heat. We’re supporting the delivery of mine water heat projects and working with others to make them happen.
Coalfield areas in Great Britain
Extensive coalfields exist across Great Britain and it is estimated that 25% of homes and businesses in the UK are located above former coal mines.
To understand the potential for mine water heat, and the Coal Authority and the British Geological Survey (BGS) released an interactive map showing estimated mine water temperatures within British Coalfields in 2020.
Extracting geothermal energy from former coal mines
Mine water gets warmer the deeper it is, following a ‘geothermal gradient’. Temperatures range from 10 – 20°C however they can reach 40°C at depths of around 1km. Mine water can be abstracted from boreholes, shafts or adits.
Heat exchangers and heat pumps are used to recover the heat and distribute, via district heating networks to homes and buildings.
Mine water heat schemes in operation
The Coal Authority has supported the council-owned Gateshead Energy Company and contractors to deliver a mine water heating scheme that will feed into an existing district heating network. Funded by the Heat Network Investment Project (HNIP) and Gateshead Council, the scheme took about 3 years to deliver and went live on the 29th March 2023. It is the largest mine water heat network in Great Britain and one of the largest in Europe.
The heat from mine water contained in workings 150m beneath Gateshead town centre is used to supply the heat network.
A 6 megawatt (MW) water source heat pump recovers heat and distributes it via a network of heat network pipes over 5km long. Currently, this network supplies heat to a range of building types including; Gateshead College, the Baltic Arts Centre, several offices and 350 council-owned homes. In the future additions will include 270 privately-owned homes, a new conference centre and hotel development.
This project has an estimated saving of 72,000 tonnes of CO2 over 40 years which equates to annual savings of about 1,800 tonnes CO2 per annum.
Mine water heat schemes in development
Seaham Garden Village
Working with Durham County Council we are supporting the development of an exemplary domestic mine water heat scheme as part of the new Garden Village at Seaham, County Durham.
Mine water, from an existing mine water treatment scheme, owned and operated by the Coal Authority, will support a district heating network that could provide heat to 1,500 new homes.
Seaham Garden Village has an estimated lifetime saving, over a 25 period, of 63,989 tonnes of CO2 when the scheme is constructed. This equates to annual savings of about 2,600 tonnes CO2.
The Coal Authority is also working on other mine water heat schemes across Great Britain, at locations including:
- Hebburn and Holborn in South Tyneside
If you would like to know more about our work please get in touch, you can also follow us on social media or look out for the discussion at #CleanEnergyFromTheCoalfields
Heat and By-Product Innovation Team
200 Lichfield Lane
Telephone 0300 3300 140