Ordnance Survey and the Coal Authority have come together to plot the potential supply and demand of heat from water in disused coal mines throughout Great Britain.

An extract from the interactive map viewer showing heating demand in Britain over recorded abandoned coal mine workings
An extract from the interactive map viewer showing heating demand in Britain over recorded abandoned coal mine workings - Coal Authority/OS

Mine water has long been considered a viable source of renewable heat, as it is already warmed geothermally. Heat pumps can extract and boost heat from the water, providing homes and businesses with clean, renewable heating.  

Using the the National Geographic Database, OS provided the Coal Authority with geospatial support as well as location and address data to see what areas of Great Britan could benefit from the country’s extensive disused mine network. Initial results showed that there are just over six million homes and over 300,000 offices and businesses above abandoned coal mines. However, the partners stressed it is too early to say how many of these could tap into the network as a heat source. Data from the project can be viewed on the mine water heat tab of the Coal Authority interactive map viewer.  

“Our data has been used to support the effective mapping of heating and cooling demand across the coal workings areas, providing a way to quickly understand and analyse the distribution of infrastructure and development and seeing which areas could benefit most from the initiative,” said John Kimmance, managing director of National Mapping Services at OS.

“This project has reinforced the critical role that location data plays in supporting sustainability projects and highlights how we can drive change for the future.”

According to 2021 Department for Energy Security and Net Zero statistics, 40 per cent of Great Britain’s energy consumption and around 20 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions come directly from heating and hot water demand. Finding alternatives to fossil fuel-powered heating is a major challenge for decarbonising our built environment.

The mine water concept is already being trialled in the UK at Gateshead, where a pilot project of 350 homes, council and privately owned offices, a college and an arts centre are tapping into the geothermal heat source.

“We know from schemes, such as the recently commissioned Gateshead mine heat network, that this works in the UK,” said Richard Bond, the Coal Authority’s Innovation and Engagement director. “The wider associated benefits of low carbon heat, levelling up, green jobs and energy security will be very positive for Great Britain in many ways.

“Location data is fundamental to addressing some of the biggest challenges we face. Thanks to OS we have maximised our use of their data, paving the way for local authorities and organisations to consider mine water heat as part of their low carbon aspirations more easily. Our hope is that this will ultimately benefit the environment and the lives of thousands of people across Great Britain.”