The Anonymous Widower

Can Abandoned Mines Heat Our Future?

The title of this post, is same as that of the title of a public lecture I attended at The Geological Society this afternoon.

This page on the Geological Society web site, gives a summary of the lecture and details of the speaker; Charlotte Adams of Durham University.

The Concept

The basic concept is simple.

  • Abandoned coal mines had their pumps turned off when they are closed and the worked areas have flooded with water, that is now at temperatures of around 12 to 20°C.
  • As fifteen billion tonnes of coal have been extracted from UK coalfields, that is a lot of space to flood. An estimate of around two billion cubic metres is given.
  • This means that the water holds somewhere between 27.9 and 46.5 GWH of energy in the form of heat.
  • Heat pumps would be used to upgrade the temperature of this water, to provide hot water at useful temperatures for space heating.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of a heat pump, Wikipedia gives a good explanation, of which this is the first paragraph.

A heat pump is a device that transfers heat energy from a source of heat to what is called a heat sink. Heat pumps move thermal energy in the opposite direction of spontaneous heat transfer, by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one. A heat pump uses a small amount of external power to accomplish the work of transferring energy from the heat source to the heat sink.

In connection with this project, the heat source is the warm water in the mines and the heat sink is the water that is circulated to heat the buildings.

Wikipedia goes on to say this.

In heating mode, heat pumps are three to four times more effective at heating than simple electrical resistance heaters using the same amount of electricity. However, the typical cost of installing a heat pump is also higher than that of a resistance heater.

Wikipedia also has a section, which descries the use of heat pumps in district heating.

It should also be noted, that as with lots of technology, heat pumps are much improved, from the one I installed in a swimming pool in the 1980s.

Gas Is Replaced By Renewable Energy

The electricity to drive the heat pumps could be derived from renewable sources such as hydroelectric, solar, wave or wind.

Effectively, the system is using intermittent sources of electricity to create a constant source of heat suitable for space heating.

Would The Mines Run Out Of Heat Or Water?

As I understand it, the water in the mine will continue to be heated by the heat in the mines. The father of a friend, who came with me to the lecture was a coal miner and my friend confirmed it was hot in a coal mine.

The water will of course continue to flood the mine and the water pumped to the surface will probably be returned.

So the system will continue to supply heat for space heating.

How Long Will The System Supply Heat?

The system has the following characteristics.

  • It is electro-mechanical.
  • It is powered by electricity.
  • Water is the heat transfer medium.
  • Additives like anti-freeze will probably be applied to the water used for heat transfer.

There is no reason the system can’t be designed, so that it supplies heat for many years with regular maintenance and updating.

How Does The System Compare To Bunhill 2 Energy Centre?

In Bunhill 2 Energy Centre, I described Islington’s Bunhill 2 Energy Centre which uses heat generated in the Northern Line of the London Underground to provide district heating.

I am fairly sure that a lot of similar technology will be used in both applications.

This page on Wikipedia is entitled London Underground Cooling.

There is a section, which is entitled Source Of The Heat, where this is said.

The heat in the tunnels is largely generated by the trains, with a small amount coming from station equipment and passengers. Around 79% is absorbed by the tunnels walls, 10% is removed by ventilation and the other 11% remains in the tunnels.

Temperatures on the Underground have slowly increased as the clay around the tunnels has warmed up; in the early days of the Underground it was advertised as a place to keep cool on hot days. However, over time the temperature has slowly risen as the heat sink formed by the clay has filled up. When the tunnels were built the clay temperature was around 14ºC; this has now risen to 19–26ºC and air temperatures in the tunnels now reach as high as 30ºC.

So one big difference is that the Underground is warmer than the mine and this should make it a better heat source.

I feel that engineers on both projects will benefit from the ideas and experience of the others.

Would Infrastructure Funds Back This Technology?

In the UK, there are several infrastructure funds set up by companies like Aberdeen Standard, Aviva, Gresham House and L & G.

In World’s Largest Wind Farm Attracts Huge Backing From Insurance Giant, I explained why Aviva had invested nearly a billion pounds in wind farms to support pensioners and holders of their insurance policies.

Comparing the risk of using abandoned mines to heat buildings and that of offshore wind turbines generating electricity, my engineering knowledge would assign a greater risk to the turbines, providing both were built to the highest possible standards.

It’s just the onshore and offshore locations and the vagaries of the weather!

I think it is true to say, that infrastructure funds will back anything, where there is an acceptable long-term income to be made, commensurate with the costs and risk involved.

But then Government or any public or private company or organisation should not pay over the odds for the energy delivered.

Conclusion

Charlotte Adams in her lecture, asked if abandoned mines can heat our future.

The answer could well be yes, but there are other sources of heat like the London Underground, that can also be used.

 

 

 

 

December 7, 2018 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bunhill 2 Energy Centre

I took these pictures as I walked up City Road.

This used to be the site of the short-lived City Road station on the Northern Line. It can’t have been very significant in the 1970s, as C and myself would probably have passed it several times a week and I can’t remember it.

There are more details on this page of the Borough of Islington web site, which is entitled Bunhill Heat Network.

This is said about Phase 2 of the project.

Phase 2 of the Bunhill Heat and Power network involves building a new energy centre at the top of Central Street, connecting the King’s Square Estate to the network and adding capacity to supply a further 1,000 homes.

The core of the new energy centre is a 1MW heat pump that will recycle the otherwise wasted heat from a ventilation shaft on the Northern Line of the London Underground network, and will transfer that heat into the hot water network. During the summer months, the system will be reversed to inject cool air into the tube tunnels.

Note.

  1. A 1MW heat pump can supply enough hot water heat upwards of a thousand homes.
  2. Could you heat your house for an average of 1kW?
  3. The King’s Square Estate is being refurbished and is hundreds of homes.
  4. The heat pump can also be used to cool the Northern Line in the summer.

I shall look forward to seeing over Bunhill 2 Energy Centre, when and if, it is opened to the public, as the first centre  was during Open House 2013. I described that visit in The Bunhill Energy Centre.

December 6, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments

Hot Air From The Underground

This article on IanVisits is entitled London Railway Upgrades – A Progress Report.

These are three entries from a long list.

Northern Line

  • The pump house steelwork on Islington’s Bunhill scheme has been completed. When working, waste heat from the Northern line will be piped into nearby homes.

Piccadilly Line

The York Road disused station is being studied for a possible heat extraction upgrade, with low grade heat then supplied to a nearby user.

Victoria Line

Work on a feasibility study into a heat extraction scheme at Forest Road vent shaft at the northern end of the Victoria line to reuse the heat for local homes is under way.

It is good to see waste heat from the Underground being used for a serious purpose.

I would hope that extracting heat, also cools the tunnels!

 

 

June 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Stephen Fitzpatrick Of OVO On Energy Policy

Stephen Fitzpatrick, the founder of OVO Energy was on BBC Breakfast this morning.

Some of what he said was very enlightening.

Nationalisation Of Distribution Networks

He indicated that this was almost irrelevant, as the technology of energy distribution is changing.

I agree.

Near to where I live, is the Bunhill Energy Centre, which has been built by Islington Council to provide heat and electricity to a local area.

Systems like this are common in some European countries and increasingly, we will see small scale units like this in cities.

In the countryside, solar and wind power linked to energy storage will become more common.

Large industrial users of energy will increasingly generate their own power.

So the distribution networks will become less and less important.

Energy Efficiency

This will become increasingly important, as innovators make devices and appliances that use energy more efficient.

It is interesting, that no Political Party has so far said, that they will promote devices and items that use less energy, by perhaps sponsoring ideas.

OVO’s Customers Spend Forty Percent Less On Gas Than When The Company Started

This was surprising, but it probably indicates that our houses and businesses are getting more energy efficient.

Energy Price Caps

He was in favour, because he believes it opens up the market for energy.

I think it also favours innovative, ethical and highly-regarded energy companies.

Say an energy company predicts that because of the price cap, it will become less profitable.

It can do one of the following.

  1. Increase the number of customers.
  2. Sell customers new and innovative goods and services.
  3. Go out of business.

OVO are taking over a respected boiler servicing company.

I think one of the good things about an energy price cap will be, that bad suppliers, big or small, will be forced out of business.

Conclusion

It was an impressive performance and the BBC should sign him up for Question Time.

 

May 17, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Good Riddance To Coal-Fired Power Stations

This article on the BBC is entitled UK’s coal plants to be phased out within 10 years. This is said.

The UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025 with their use restricted by 2023, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has proposed.

Ms Rudd wants more gas-fired stations to be built since relying on “polluting” coal is “perverse”.

Because coal is pure carbon, when it burns, if produces carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, natural gas, is a mixture of hydrogen and methane, which is a compound of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atons.  So when it burns, it produces a lot of the combustion product of hydrogen, which is water.

I think to get the same amount of heat or produce a given amount of electricity, natural gas creates about half the amount of carbon dioxide, than coal does.

There is another advantage of using gas to generate electricity. You can have small power stations generating electricity, where it is needed.

An interesting small gas-powered power station is the Bunhill Energy Centre in Islington, which is used to generate electricity and heat for some of the Council’s buildings. Phase 2 of this project will capture waste heat from the London Underground and a large electricity sub-station, that will be used to heat more buildings.

These cogeneration systems will become more numerous. For instance, if you had say a large detached house in the country, you might use solar panels or a wind turbine, backed by a microCHP system for dark or still days.

We shouldn’t underestimate, the skill of engineers to design electricity combined heat and power systems matched to all the different markets.

There will come a time, where many of us will generate the electricity we need, either by ourselves or perhaps in a local co-operative. We could even sell the surplus back to the grid.

I will not predict what a system will look like, but it will heat your house and provide you with the electricity you need.

The one thing, I will predict that coal will not have any use for the generation of electricity.

November 18, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Does Jeremy Corbyn Really Support Coal?

I am very surprised by this report in the Daily Mirror, which talks about Jeremy Corbyn and coal. Here’s the first paragraph.

Jeremy Corbyn could bring back coal mines despite vowing to ‘keep fossil fuels in the ground’.

The article goes on to talk about carbon capture technology to burn coal without producing any carbon dioxide.

I have been to learned lectures on this technology and there’s about as much chance of making it work economically, as landing an astronaut on the Sun.

I may be wrong about carbon capture technology, but we would be better spending the investment on insulating our woefully energy-inefficient buildings, so everybody had a lower energy bill.

We obviously need more electricity and there are better ways of generating it without the carbon problem.

My preferred methods would be.

  1. Importing electricity generated by geothermal and hydroelectric power stations in Iceland using an undersea cable. The so-called IceLink is described on this page on the National Grid web site.
  2. Tidal power in the Severn and other western estuaries. The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is a project that has started.
  3. Offshore wind and wave.
  4. Solar panels on buildings. Technology is improving and costs are falling.
  5. Local energy generation using small-scale systems like the Bunhill Energy Centre in Islington.

I also believe that if we funded research in our best Universities, we could fundamentally change our energy use, generation and conservation.

We might even be able to do without using more of the following types of power generation in the future.

  1. Coal, with all its problems of pollution and the carbon dioxide it generates.
  2. Nuclear, with all its problems of high cost and unacceptability by certain sections of the population.
  3. On-shore wind, with all its visual intrusion.

I think the future is going to be scientifically green.

I suspect that in twenty or thirty years time, our main uses of fossil fuels, like oil and gas, will be in the production of needed chemicals, heat energy for industrial processes and powering transport.

August 24, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Cheshire East And Southend Strike Cheaper Energy Deals With OVO

This report on the BBC tells how Cheshire East Council has done a deal with OVO to get cheaper energy for residents and businesses.

The report also says that Southend are doing something similar.

I think we’ll be seeing lots of deals like this in the future. Some might even be provided by the Big Six energy companies as they try to keep market share.

I do think though, that linking energy to a community could give a lot of advantages.

1. It creates a direct incentive for councils to bring in energy saving and local generation schemes, like the one created by Islington at Bunhill Row.

2. The philosophy might also push developers to create new offices, business premises and housing, that is less energy intensive, due to the higher profile of energy costs in the area.

3. Those not on-line or without a bank account, would gain access to cheaper energy through the council’s payments system. I can just about remember people paying for their energy in small gas and electricity offices.

4. We might even see the time, when you pay a single on-line payment to your local council for Council Tax, Resident’s Parking, gas, electricity, broadband and water.

If the system doesn’t deliver cheaper prices and better service, you can always vote the politicians out of office.

March 17, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Are Wind Turbines Not What They’re Cracked Up To Be?

The news this morning that RWE Innogy are not going ahead with the Atlantic Array of 240 wind turbines is to some surprising.

The developers cite engineering difficulties and that it is not the right time for the project, although others are saying that there are financial problems with the project.

If we are going to have wind turbines, which I’ll admit, I think are an eyesore in the British landscape, then offshore is probably the best place for them.

I think that this array might well be built at some time, but only after new and better technology has arrived.

It would be wrong to increase the subsidy for the project to get it built.

If subsidies go anywhere they should go into energy research.

1. We should try to find better ways of getting the gas out that is there, that would otherwise use crude fracking techniques.

2. Our buildings are notoriously badly insulated and research should be directed to find better ways of cutting energy use.

3. Research could also be directed towards better ways of generating heat and power, to widen some of the techniques used at places like the Bunhill Energy Centre.

Just using subsidies to put up wind turbines, is like giving an alcoholic or drug addict, money to fund their habit. It might give some a good feeling, but it does nothing for the overall good of society.

 

November 26, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

More Hot Air For Bunhill

During Open House in September, I visited the Bunhill Energy Centre, which provides heat and power for homes in Islington.

There are now reports like this one on ITV, that they will be taking in the waste heat from the Underground and an electricity sub-station. I would assume the latter is the massive one between the Regent’s Canal and City Road, that provides power to the City of London.

Perhaps they should build a centre like Bunhill close to the Houses of Parliament to heat homes n Westminster!

November 15, 2013 Posted by | News | , , , | 2 Comments

The Bunhill Energy Centre

I went to the Bunhill Energy Centre as it was one of sites in Open House.

This centre provides enough heat and electricity for 700 homes.

We shall be seeing a lot more developments like this. I’ve always felt that small versions of the same system, using the same principles of a gas powered engine driving a generator, could be used to power and heat larger houses and small industrial premises. In fact Tomorrow’s World showed such a system based on a Fiat car engine in the 1980s.

We are just too conservative about how we generate electricity and heat.

Strangely, I met someone here, who was just a couple of years ahead of me at Minchenden.

September 21, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | 6 Comments