Mine water heat in Scotland

We are working with partners to unlock the heat within Scotland’s disused coal mine network. This could be used as a low carbon, sustainable heat options for local communities and contribute to creating a stronger, fairer and greener economy in Scotland.

As part of our work to make a better future for people and the environment in former mining areas in Scotland, we’re exploring opportunities to use the heat from mine water to provide heat to homes, businesses and the horticultural industry.

With heating accounting for 51% of energy use in Scotland (source: Scottish Renewables 2020), mine water heat could help improve the sustainability of homes and businesses on the coalfields. Sourcing heat in this way could also play a part in Scotland’s transition to a wellbeing economy, delivering prosperity, wellbeing and resilience for all Scotland’s people and places. Mine water heat projects can also create green jobs, improve energy security and support businesses with keeping their costs more stable in the future. Mine water heat takes an infrastructure which was carved out by miners for years and turns it into a green energy source to be used by current and future generations.

Water within disused mines is warmed by natural processes and can, if correctly accessed and sustainably managed, provide a continuous supply of heat. Mine water temperatures are not affected by seasonal variations. Subject to the right support, knowledge and experience, mine water can provide renewable, secure, low carbon heating in coalfield areas. This could be part of the key in tackling climate change domestically and internationally, and driving forward Scotland’s just transition to a low carbon economy.

We are working with local authorities in Scotland, Scottish Government, regulators and academics to help realise the potential of mine water heat. We’re supporting the delivery of mine water heat projects and working with partners to make them happen, safely and sustainably.

We have a shared mission with Scottish Government, to protect Scotland’s environment and to contribute to building a strong and sustainable Net Zero economy.

Coalfield areas in Scotland

Approximately 50% of the homes in Scotland are within the coal mining reporting area. People living and working above abandoned coal mine workings could benefit from heat within the mines, if conditions are right and the heat is properly accessed and the scheme correctly managed.

To understand the potential for mine water heat, we worked with the British Geological Survey (BGS) to create and release an interactive map showing estimated mine water temperatures within coalfields in Britain in 2020. The map indicates opportunities to explore and harness mine water heat in Scotland, which would also be used in Scotland. Heat cannot be transported long distances so heat extraction and its use is localised, thereby benefitting local communities directly.

Learn more about the interactive map that reveals heat stored in Britain’s abandoned coal mines

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 and in some cases through 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 development

Large scale mine water heating schemes are already being explored and introduced.

Gateshead scheme

We have been supporting the Gateshead council-owned Gateshead Energy Company and their contractors to deliver a mine water heating scheme that will feed into an existing district heating network.

Heat from mine water contained in workings 150m beneath Gateshead town centre is being used.

A 6MW water source heat pump recovers heat and distributes it via the heat network to up to 1,250 new private homes, a care home, Gateshead International Stadium and other Council-owned buildings in Felling.

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.

This is just one example of a working mine water heat network, there are more examples of schemes worldwide which further demonstrate that the knowledge, technology and methods are already proven and making a difference to local communities living or working close by.

If you’d 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

Coal Authority
200 Lichfield Lane
NG18 4RG

Email minewaterheat@coal.gov.uk

Telephone 0300 3300 140