Tomson Consulting Pioneers Project to Harness Heat from Coal Mines for Blyth, Northumberland

Sheffield-based engineering experts, Tomson Consulting, in collaboration with Northumberland County Council, have taken significant strides towards alleviating fuel poverty in Northumberland. The team, led by Faye Tomson, has successfully conducted a feasibility study and developed a business plan for a long-term infrastructure project aimed at mitigating fuel cost fluctuations and generating low-carbon energy to heat essential facilities in Blyth, Northumberland.

Faye Tomson elucidated that the proposed 6MW minewater heat pump in Blyth would distribute heat to an array of buildings, including public facilities, shops, offices, hospitals, and residences, sourced from a minewater treatment scheme. Due to the flooding of coal mines beneath Blyth, the subterranean water retains a consistent temperature throughout the year, with surface temperatures in Blyth at 12.5°C. This warmth provides an excellent heat source for a minewater source heat pump, which can operate with high efficiency compared to an air source heat pump susceptible to fluctuating air temperatures.

The project aims to harness the heat resource from the legacy of coal mining, replacing the need for individual fossil fuel boilers or electric heaters in each building.

County Councillors have given their approval for the next phase of planning new district heat networks following Tomson Consulting’s feasibility investigations in Blyth and Cramlington. The Council intends to expand these initiatives to Alnwick, Ashington, Berwick, Hexham, Morpeth, and Prudhoe.

District heat networks offer numerous benefits to residents, communities, and businesses, including cost savings through more energy-efficient decarbonized heating sources and reduced vulnerability to future fluctuations in fossil fuel prices.

Faye Tomson emphasized, ‘We have put together a full business plan which will help to decarbonise heat for the long term through utilisation of heat available in minewater in Blyth. The project has prioritised supplying heat to residents of social housing and key public buildings, helping to reduce fuel poverty in the region, and further developing the low carbon economy.’

The development of heat networks aligns with the Council’s Climate Change Action Plan, contributing to carbon emissions reduction by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and imported energy from the national grid.

Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Glen Sanderson, noted that Tomson Consulting was appointed to explore low carbon technologies like heat networks, especially considering the escalating prices of oil and gas due to global energy market pressures. Sanderson stressed the importance of exploring sustainable ways to heat properties, both for environmental and economic benefits.

Heat networks play a vital role in the UK’s strategy to achieve net zero emissions. They offer a localized solution for decarbonizing heat, especially in areas with concentrated heat demand and access to low-carbon heat sources. Alternative sources of heat supply include energy from waste plants, sewage source heat pumps, and industrial waste heat from power production or manufacturing.

Tomson Consulting is at the forefront of heat network feasibility in the UK, particularly in minewater heat, and has successfully delivered projects in various locations, including Barnsley, Blyth, and Scotland. The team has also contributed to a project in Cornwall, utilizing heat from a disused tin mine to warm a housing estate in West Penwith. Additionally, Tomson Consulting recently completed a second feasibility study for Northumberland Council, exploring the use of heat from a biomass power station to heat numerous homes, a leisure center, council buildings, and care homes in Cramlington.

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