Hebburn Minewater District Heating System

South Tyneside Council is working to recover heat from mine workings to make the area carbon neutral by 2030.

319 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Est. number of people
who benefit directly

Proposed District Heating System Network serving council properties.
Computer-generated image of proposed Energy Centre.

Our story

by South Tyneside Council

Hebburn Colliery opened in 1792 initially working the Main coal seam at a depth of around 112 fathoms (200 m). Operated by the Wallsend & Hebburn Coal Company Ltd at peak production it employed over 1,850 men and boys. Coal extracted from the main seam was of the finest quality house coal and high-quality coal was utilised by over 100 local steel mills. Coal mining in Hebburn ended in the 1930s with the closure of the colliery in August 1932.

South Tyneside Council (STC) regard the Hebburn Mine water District Heating System (HMDHS) project as a necessary investment to help ensure delivery of their ‘Climate Emergency’ pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.The project provides renewable heat by recovering mine water flooded coal seams of Hebburn Colliery, supplying a network to connected to Durham Court (residential), Hebburn Central (Library & Leisure Centre) and Lincoln Court (care home). HMDHS will be among the first in the world to use heat harvested from mine water to heat council properties. An initial CO2 reduction of 319 tonnes p.a. is anticipated, higher mine water temperatures recorded suggest savings will increase, providing a solid foundation for network expansion.

The electric drilling of the boreholes is ‘non-percussive’, emitting less noise than existing road traffic, and the power supply is from an acoustic baffled generator. Drilling will be during normal working hours, and each drill site is enclosed within a screened compound. The water source heat pump, located deep below ground, should avoid noise pollution. Once the boreholes reach the flooded seam, water flow and temperature tests are conducted, which establish the available energy yield, this in turn will inform the
Energy Centre design.

The borehole work have commenced, and completion is anticipated by the end of 2021.

The Energy Centre is located in a prominent position in Hebburn Town Centre, hence the STC design brief requires a building that responds to its setting and location building on Hebburn’s mining heritage. The building and its public realm have been designed to accentuate the link between the past and the future.

The Energy Centre design is now complete.

The HMDHS network construction works comprise the following: construction of the Energy Centre in accordance with the full design provide at tender; digging of trenching and laying of highly insulated heating pipes below ground; contractor design of connections to, and work within plant spaces and flats in Durham Court; connection of network to Durham Court, Hebburn Central and Lincoln Court; comply with CEEQUAL application, and provide evidence; commissioning, testing, and monitoring in operation to verify performance and carbon saving.

Our advice

The availability of minewater, and inspiration from schemes like: Haarleen Netherlands, Shettelstons Fife UK, Lanchester Wines, and Felling Gateshead UK.

The initial feasibility study was carried out by GeoEnergy Durham, in co-operation with the Coal Authority in 2019, inspired by the ready availability of heat from flooded mine workings below the borough of South Tyneside. These mine workings offer a sustainable source of warm mine water, that could be extracted and whose temperature could be increased by a ground source heat pump, which would then be passed through a heat exchanger and distributed by a heat network. The scheme also supplements the mine water with photo-voltaic cells and a waste wood gasification plant, to provide a balance of technologies and heat sources that will feed the Energy Centre and network.

South Tyneside has worked closely with GeoEnergy Durham, FWS Consultants, Coal Authority, and Buro Happold.

The following are some of the challenges presented by borehole drilling works: the geology and geotechnical issues; locating the target mine workings; finding mine water and in the correct temperature range; working within a built-up urban area; drilling two 700mm diameter boreholes to a depth of 300m below ground; the potential escape of mine gases

The Energy Centre Network design has been challenging in making assessment of mine water temperature, and heat pump operation, balancing this with the existing Combined Heat & Power technology to give carbon saving, versus reduced costs of operation of the plant. The design provides for alternative air source heat pumps, to be adopted should the mine workings be missed, or the mine water temperature be too low or sustainable.

The Delivery Team: South Tyneside Council Asset Management (client); Driver Project Services (project manager); Gardiner + Theobald (cost manager); Buro Happold (lead consultant); FaulknerBrowns (architect); Dunelm Drilling (borehole contractor).

Our metrics

CEEQUAL Assessment rating of Good, with an aspiration to achieve a rating of Very Good.
Number of residences served.
Reduction in carbon emissions.
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