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Mine water heating and cooling: a 21st century resource for decarbonisation

With interest in geothermal heat recovery and storage increasing, the British Geological Survey alongside BEIS and IEA Geothermal held a mine water heating and cooling symposium to connect industry professionals from around the world.

20/04/2021 By BGS Press
Mine water drainage from an abandoned colliery in south Wales, UK
Mine water drainage from an abandoned colliery in south Wales, UK. Photograph Gareth Farr ©BGS, UKRI

By Gareth Farr, Brian Carey and Brett Hagen

Gareth Farr is a hydrogeologist who leads the BGS mine energy topic.
Brian Carey is the IEA Geothermal executive secretary and is based in New Zealand. 
Brett Hagen is the Heat Networks Specialist (HNDU) at BEIS.

The drive to decarbonise heating has resulted in investigations of abandoned flooded coalmines across the world as they offer potential for heat recovery, cooling and storage of heat. On 10th and 11th March  BGS, IEA Geothermal and BEIS organised a conference to share current research and lessons learned from both scientific projects and real life projects concerning mine water energy.  IEA Geothermal were very pleased to be involved in assisting with this informative symposium which quickly developed as an opportunity for the international community interested in mine water geothermal to connect.  This free to attend conference had 500 registrants from 73 countries. Attendees used the Twitter hashtag #CleanEnergyFromTheCoalfields to join in the discussion, which is still in active use for those wanting to learn more and join  our thriving global community.

Mine water heating and cooling symposium attendees world map and pie chart
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500 people from 73 countries registered for the free event, with a mixture of academic, geological survey, environmental regulators, local authorities, government and consultants.

Brett Hagen (BEIS) launched day one of the conference by covering the policy and practice for low carbon heat networks in the UK. David Banks (Holymoor Consultancy Ltd / University of Glasgow) discussed the risks, potential capital expenditure (CAPEX) uncertainties and made the call for integration of new (and existing) mine water treatment schemes with housing developments. Recently released temperature maps of the British coalfields were described by Gareth Farr (BGS). The session continued with discussion onpractical issues includingopportunities inNewcastle and Gateshead (Jonathan Steven – Groundwater and Geothermal Services Ltd),thermo-mechanical modelling for heat/flow cycling in pillar and stall workings (Fiona Todd, University of Edinburgh)and an overview of the Coal Authority’s approach to turning mine energy into a strategic asset for Britain (Bohdan Iwanskyj, The Coal Authority).

Steven Hayes (Hayes Tec Ltd) introduced day two with a talk on heat networks, Florian Hahn (Fraunhofer IEG) on the Dennenbaum coal mine in Germany and Mike Jenkins (Bridgend Council) on early stage feasibility and public engagement in south Wales. Florian Hahn (Fraunhofer IEG) returned for part 2 of his excellent presentation covering testing at a demonstration site, including interesting heat injection tests. There is obvious scope to link up geo-observatories across Europe to share lessons learned and to facilitate collaboration.  Charlotte Adams (the Coal Authority) talked about smart systems for mine energy schemes with Alison Monaghan (BGS) concluding the event with a presentation on the UK Geoenergy Observatory in Glasgow.

Hosting the conference via Zoom democratised the online Q&A session, and we fielded over 130 questions. Regulation, CAPEX and customer acceptance were frequently mentioned, as was the desire to form a specialist interest group to continue creating opportunities for co-collaboration between policy makers, researchers, regulators and developers across the world. Attendees were able to vote anonymously via three polls suggesting that mine water heating and cooling is a feasible solution for decarbonising heat (62%), CAPEX is considered the biggest challenge for mine water heating schemes (27%) and demonstration schemes complemented with scientific observatories are the best way to ‘de-risk’ the technology (86%).

Due to the global interest in low carbon mine energy schemes, demand for this kind of conference, and a desire to continue talking and connecting with one another, we hope to plan a secondary event in the near future. If you would like to be involved then please email Gareth Farr ).

Further reading:

Conference Agenda https://www.bgs.ac.uk/news/21st-century-resource-for-decarbonisation/

Recordings of the presentations  https://iea-gia.org/workshop-presentations/2021-mine-water-geothermal-energy-symposium/

UK Geoenergy Observatory in Glasgow https://ukgeos.ac.uk/observatories/glasgow

The Coal Authority https://www2.groundstability.com/geothermal-energy-from-abandoned-coal-mines/

Heat Store Project https://www.heatstore.eu/

D2Grids Project https://www.nweurope.eu/projects/project-search/d2grids-increasing-the-share-of-renewable-energy-by-accelerating-the-roll-out-of-demand-driven-smart-grids-delivering-low-temperature-heating-and-cooling-to-nwe-cities/

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