Sunderland city council have invited contractors to help with a feasibility study as plans to develop the UK’s largest mine water heat network moves a step closer.
Sunderland City Council is asking for expressions of interest from contractors to carry out borehole drilling which will establish the viability of a geothermal heat network that could power hundreds of buildings in the city. However, contractors only have a few days in which to respond.
The council is asking for interested parties to consider their experience, availability and recommended approaches to the borehole drilling and testing aspects of the project, that will allow the city to advance its plans to create a new way of powering homes and commercial buildings – using mine water.
Borehole drilling works are planned at the former Wearmouth Colliery in Sunderlnd to determine the feasibility of a network that could save upwards of 4,100 tonnes of CO2 a year, representing a 70% carbon saving against mains gas.
Mine water gets warmer the deeper it is, following a ‘geothermal gradient’. Temperatures range from 10 to 20’c but can reach 40’c at depths of around 1km. Mine water can be abstracted from boreholes, shafts or adits.
The £1.6m Wearmouth Colliery study, supported by government funding from the £270m Green Heat Networks Fund transition scheme, is out to form market engagement on the procurement of specialist contractors, to drill pilot boreholes into the former mine workings. The council will be supported by the Coal Authority to engage with contractors.
It is expected that further studies will then be carried out to understand whether the heat extracted could support the new homes being developedd on Riverside Sunderland., as well as other buildings across the city. The chosen drilling contractor might then go on and drill the final operational boreholes as part of the construction programme, in which heat exchangers and heat pumps will be used to recover the heat from mine water and distribute it via district heating networks.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller, said: “This is another step forward on our journey towards a carbon neutral city, and reflects our ambition to innovate to help our businesses to operate and residents to live more sustainably. We’re looking forward to seeing the response from the market and hope to engage a partner to help us advance this project soon”.