Geothermal energy from abandoned coal mines

One quarter of residential properties in the UK sit on the coalfields.

When underground mines are abandoned, the pumps that kept them dry are often switched off and the mines fill with water. This water is heated by geological processes, and the temperature remains stable year-round.

The Coal Authority has calculated that the constantly replenishing water within these mines could potentially be a large enough resource to provide all of the heating requirements for the coalfield areas. It could also be used as heat and energy for horticulture, manufacturing, and other purposes.

The abandoned coal mines in the UK present an enormous opportunity to the UK as a source of geothermal energy.

The water in these mines is a low carbon, sustainable heat source, which under the right conditions can compete with public supply gas prices and deliver carbon savings up to 75% compared to gas heating.

In the case of a district heating network, this energy can be transferred to a pipe network using a heat exchanger, and then distributed to nearby homes.

This kind of renewable energy technology could help to present coalfield areas as more attractive to investors, which could breathe life back into some areas of the UK where it is most needed.

It could also provide a significant low carbon contribution to Britain’s future renewable energy needs. Many local authorities have already declared a ‘climate emergency’, with pledges to become carbon neutral in the coming years.

Heat accounts for half of UK energy demands, with most currently derived from gas. However, government targets state that by 2025 there will be no gas connections in new build houses and businesses. Technology-ready alternatives, such as mine energy, are sure to play a huge role in supplying Britain’s energy needs for years to come.

Heat from abandoned coal mines is an innovative and practical solution to one of the big challenges facing the economy – decarbonising heat supplies.

Further information

You can view a news article we did with ITV-X, focused on Gateshead and Lanchester Wines, which gives a good understanding of the approach/es being taken.

You can also read an article we supported France24 with, which covers two of our current schemes – Seaham and Gateshead – where mine water heat is/will be used.

Treatment scheme locations

The Coal Authority manages more than 70 mine water treatment schemes across Britain, handling and treating over 122 billion litres of mine water every year and the locations of these can be seen on the map below. Click on a site to find out what the average water flow rate is for the site and whether the water is pumped or not.

Did you know that these sites can provide heating opportunities and supply water for industry?

Find out more