How abandoned South Tyneside coal mines will generate energy once more under innovative renewable power scheme

Abandoned coal mines in South Tyneside are set to be used for a renewable energy scheme to help slash carbon emissions by hundreds of tonnes.
An energy centre and pump room are also likely to be located close to Hebburn Central in the town centreAn energy centre and pump room are also likely to be located close to Hebburn Central in the town centre
An energy centre and pump room are also likely to be located close to Hebburn Central in the town centre

The ‘Hebburn Minewater District Network’ will see geothermal energy drawn from flooded mines in the former Hebburn Colliery, and used to heat council-owned buildings in the town, including a residential tower block.

The project, which has preliminary approval for £3.5million funding from the European Regional Development Fund, is set to take a major step forward next week when council bosses select a designer for the scheme.

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Coun Joan Atkinson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety with responsibility for climate change, said: “This is a highly innovative scheme, which will be one of the first council minewater district heating systems in the UK.

“It is expected to deliver a reduction of 319 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, which will make it a key component in our drive to make the council carbon neutral by 2030.

“Cooled water will be returned to the mine workings and locally-generated electricity using solar panels and a combined heat and power unit will be used to help power it.

“It will also help us meet our obligations to upgrade the energy performance of fuel-poor homes as it will be used to heat one of the town’s residential high-rise blocks.”

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Hebburn was extensively mined until mine abandonment in 1932.

The new district heating scheme aims to use the town’s mining legacy to create a sustainable heat source.

Water will be extracted by drilling vertical boreholes 300-400m into flooded coal mines underground, with pilot boreholes also establishing key information which will feed into the main scheme’s design.

In action, a water source heat pump will extract the heat from the minewater before it is compressed to a higher temperature and distributed to the heat network.

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The £7million scheme, which is being developed in collaboration with the Coal Authority and Durham University, will also lay the foundations for potential future development and expansion of the network.

An energy centre and pump room are also likely to be located close to Hebburn Central in the town centre.

In July 2019, South Tyneside Council declared a climate emergency and pledged to take all necessary steps to make the council carbon neutral by 2030.

Earlier this year, the council also published a climate change strategy with a five-year action plan listing actions to make its operations more eco-friendly.

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On the Hebburn project, Coun Atkinson added: “This is an exciting project which will make a significant contribution to our ambition for carbon neutrality and a greener, more sustainable borough.

“Subject to cabinet approval next week, the appointment of a designer will be a significant step forward.”

South Tyneside Council’s ruling cabinet are expected to discuss the plans on Wednesday, April 29 at 4pm.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and Government guidance on social distancing, the meeting will be available to watch live.

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A link to watch the meeting is expected to be published on the council’s website.

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