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Geothermal Energy

Durham University leads research into the potential for geothermal energy in the UK and abroad.

The UK’s geothermal resources are significant and could supply heat to the UK for over a century.

Our innovative research considers water in abandoned mines as a future low carbon heat source. We are working with the Coal Authority, Regional Local Enterprise Partnerships, Durham County Council, the BritGeothermal research partnership and Industry to explore this potential and develop demonstrators in the UK.

We are working with key stakeholders internationally, including governments and companies in the Oil and Gas sector, to promote the development of geothermal infrastructure and increase the use of Geothermal heat for industrial and domestic heating.

Our Director Professor Jon Gluyas is President of the new Geothermal Energy Advancement Association (GEAA) an initiative that brings together industry and academia to promote the role of geothermal energy in the energy transition globally.

Our research in Parliament

In 2019 Helen Goodman MP led a debate in Westminster on the use of abandoned mines for heat using evidence collected by Durham Energy Institute. This follows on from a study by Durham University on using mine water to heat homes in Spennymoor. This study found enough resource to heat a planned development of 200 homes.

“A source of clean, renewable energy under our feet is a very exciting prospect, and it’s all right here in the former coal mines beneath Spennymoor. The research carried out by Durham Energy Institute is very important in helping us better understand this resource and the ways we can best make use of it for a greener, more prosperous County Durham. This research was a key source for me when I led a parliamentary debate on Geothermal Energy, and I’m proud to work alongside the Institute promoting the benefits of this untapped energy source.”

Helen Goodman, former MP for Bishop Auckland.

Including Geothermal energy in regional energy strategy

DEI has been working with stakeholders from across North East England to ensure Geothermal energy from mine water is included in regional plans and strategies and considered for new developments. It is now incorporated as a key pillar in the North East Energy for Growth Strategy and Coal Authority has more geothermal projects in its pipeline for the region than any other region in the UK.

“DEI has been a central advocate for the geothermal potential in the region, and the opportunities this presents for our economy and to decarbonise heat, providing both the evidence base and enthusiasm to make sure this was a key theme in our Energy for Growth Strategy.”

Andrew Clark, Energy Programme Lead at North East Local Enterprise Partnership

Further information

What is Geothermal Energy?

Geothermal energy comes from heat produced at the Earth’s core. It is normally associated with volcanic regions e.g. Iceland or New Zealand.

Volcanoes are not essential for geothermal energy.

Away from volcanic regions, most countries can access geothermal albeit at lower temperatures. Temperature increases by 25-30°C with each km depth. This means that a well drilled to 2km would reach a temperature of 50-60°.

The key thing is finding water at depth that is essential for bringing heat to the surface heat to the surface. Durham University is researching the UK potential for geothermal energy to decarbonise heat.

Why is decarbonising heat important?

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Where is geothermal heat located?

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Heat from abandoned mines

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