The legacy of the mining industry in a new green economy

David Malsom, Group Leader for Housing and Energy at Barnsley Council, describes how the legacy of the mining industry links to a modern green economy.

How can closed coal mines generate zero carbon heat?

Barnsley is an area that was once heavily reliant on coal mining; it’s now transitioning to a more modern, greener economy but the legacy of the mining industry is still with us via the closed mine workings.

These mine workings offer an opportunity to develop low carbon heating using the warm water which is found at depth. Depending on the local conditions, the water has a consistent temperature often between 12 to 20 degrees Celsius.  This water can be passed through a heat pump and the temperature increased to provide heating and cooling in domestic and commercial situations. If the heat pump uses renewable energy the heat generated is zero carbon.

What work have you done so far?

Barnsley has already completed several studies of how it can use mine water as a non-fossil fuel heating source.  We know that despite having good sources of minewater, not all of is readily accessible and not all is in the same location as potential users of the heat. The costs of drilling boreholes and transporting the water via pipes where it can be used are both significant.

How are you gathering the knowledge you need?

Working with a local developer, we are looking at how the planning system can best be utilised to encourage the development of this technology in a way that manages the significant upfront development costs.  We are investing in mapping the location of the mineworkings, geology and possible users of the heat – either in existing buildings or through areas of new development. We have recently taken on a new member of our team who is a geologist and previously worked with the coal authority.  In other words, we are investing in our knowledge base to utilise our natural resources.

Is there any funding available to support your work?

Using the approach of developing solutions where the minewater is accessible, we have submitted a funding application to the Department for Business Environmental and Industrial Stategy (BEIS). This is for a minewater heat pump at Elescar Heritage Centre - a grade II listed site. Our aim is to use this technology to heat several of the large buildings including commercial sites.

What is the direct link between history and the future at Elescar Heritage Centre?

The source of minewater on the site is next to the Newcome Beam engine, which is the UK’s oldest piece of industrial architecture still in its original location.  The water will be extracted from the workings, transported using super insulated pipework to the buildings where heat pumps will bring water to temperature for use as a heat source.

We hope that once complete this work will provide a compelling narrative of the journey from coal, and show how our industrial heritage can be used as a source of zero carbon heat.