What is it about?

With the advent of sustainable energy, industries are slowly switching to more environment-friendly methods of energy production. One way to do this is by producing geothermal energy from groundwater. A 2021 study explored this option over a 4-year period in Glasgow, United Kingdom. The country has multiple coal mines that have been abandoned. These later fill up with groundwater due to a lack of maintenance. The porous nature of rocks surrounding the coal mines allows them to be easily accessed through boreholes. The water inside the mine can then be pumped to a heat exchange system, which is then used to heat or cool indoor spaces such as homes and offices. After heat exchange, the water can be directed back into another area of the coal mine through a second borehole, thereby forming a closed loop system. To further build upon existing mine water and thermal energy research, the Glasgow Observatory, an underground observatory, was constructed. The findings from this observatory suggest that although the depth and flooding of mines were accurately predicted in previously studied mine plans, exploring these abandoned mines involves many risks and uncertainties.

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Why is it important?

Despite the risks involved, tapping into the potential of geothermal energy production using mine water could yield promising results towards decarbonisation of heat and net-zero carbon emissions. Observations from the Glasgow Observatory could provide the basis for future research on this front and contribute to sustainable energy production from semi-renewable resources. KEY TAKEAWAY: Groundwater that has seeped into abandoned coal mines serves as a geothermal reserve of energy. Harnessing this resource as a new source of energy could help us progress towards achieving net-zero emissions through decarbonisation of heat.

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This page is a summary of: Drilling into mines for heat: geological synthesis of the UK Geoenergy Observatory in Glasgow and implications for mine water heat resources, Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, June 2021, Geological Society, DOI: 10.1144/qjegh2021-033.
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