Newcastle geothermal energy project nears final phase

A pioneering project to drill deep under the heart of Newcastle in search of geothermal energy is about to enter its final phase.

This week sees the arrival of the ‘Big Rig’, a hydraulic hoist rig standing 16m tall and capable of lifting 100 metric tonnes.

The new drill — which is made of a thermo-stable polycrystalline diamond and is being supplied by specialist NOV Downhole — will bore as far as 2,000m underground as part of a major research project being led by Newcastle University.

Drilling deep under the planned 24-acre Science Central site — the site of the former Scottish and Newcastle Brewery — the university team hopes to eventually find water that is at a temperature of around 80oC.

Since the £1,050,000 project was launched three months ago, UK-wide drilling specialist Drilcorp has opened up the first 250m, taking the borehole down past the old mine workings of the former North Elswick Colliery.

Now, European onshore drilling expert Geometric Drilling is picking up the baton and drilling down the remaining 1,750m.

Project lead Prof Paul Younger, director of the university’s Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, said: ‘Our aim is to see if we can provide some, if not all, of the energy requirements for Science Central from the most low-carbon energy source there is.’

Funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Newcastle Science City Partnership and the British Geological Survey, the borehole is designed to explore the rocks along one of the UK’s largest geological fault zones — the so-called 90-Fathom Fault Zone — which shows signs of hosting hot groundwater.