Work to start immediately on innovative energy scheme using old mines to heat buildings

An innovative renewable energy scheme using old mines to heat council-owned buildings has taken a major step forward in South Tyneside.

Water in a flooded deep mine. A scheme to harness heat from minewater is being developed in Hebburn, and a second is now on its way for South Shields
Water in a flooded deep mine. A scheme to harness heat from minewater is being developed in Hebburn, and a second is now on its way for South Shields

Work will start immediately on the multi-million-pound minewater scheme in Hebburn, which has been granted planning permission for the initial testing phase.

The scheme will draw geothermal energy from abandoned flooded mines at the former Hebburn Colliery which will be used to heat council-owned buildings in the town centre, including a residential tower block.

It is also expected to slash annual carbon dioxide emissions by hundreds of tonnes every year.

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

To progress the project, two wells will be drilled to extract water from the mines and testing will be carried out to ensure the scheme remains fully viable.

Specialist drilling company Dunelm Geotechnical and Environmental Ltd will construct the wells and carry out associated ground investigation works.

Councillor Tracey Dixon, leader of South Tyneside Council, welcomed the scheme and its aims.

Durham Court, Hebburn, is one of the buildings which will be heated by the scheme

“Work will start on the testing phase of this project without delay,” she said.

“The minewater scheme is expected to deliver a reduction of 319 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, which will make a significant contribution to our ambition for carbon neutrality by 2030.

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

The water will be extracted by drilling vertical boreholes into the flooded coal mines underground.

A water source heat pump will then extract the heat from the minewater before it is compressed to a higher temperature.

It will then feed into an energy centre located above ground before being distributed via a new pipe network to buildings in the town centre, providing them with low carbon and sustainable heat.

Electricity generated locally using solar panels and a combined heat and power unit will also be used to help power the system.

The scheme, which has secured more than £3million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund, is being developed in collaboration with the Coal Authority and Durham University.

The drilling works and construction of the wells are likely to take until the autumn to complete.

In addition, the plans are also expected to help South Tyneside Council to meet its own carbon reduction targets.

The local authority declared a climate emergency in 2019 and pledged to take all necessary steps to make the council carbon neutral by 2030.

Since then, it has developed a climate change strategy with a comprehensive five-year action plan.

Cllr Tracey Dixon, leader of the council, said investing in the natural environment is one of her key priorities.

She added: “It’s fantastic that the town’s industrial legacy will be used in the future fight against climate change and that the old mines will once again produce energy, albeit in a different form.

“We have already made great strides in reducing our carbon footprint and we will continue to develop highly innovative solutions to become environmentally sustainable.”

Hebburn was extensively mined until mine abandonment in 1932.

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