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Geothermal borehole wins financial backing from government

A proposal to drill 2km below the heart of Newcastle in search of renewable energy this week won financial backing from the government.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) awarded £400,000 to Newcastle and Durham Universities to drill a geothermal borehole on the planned twenty-acre Science Central – the site of the former Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, in Newcastle city centre.

The borehole will be the deepest ever drilled in a UK city and scientists believe that at this depth it will bring up hot water at a temperature of 80oC - an unlimited source hot enough to heat any domestic or commercial central heating system.

The research team, led by Newcastle University’s professor Paul Younger, hope the resulting heat will be enough to supply not only the Science Central site but also part of the city centre and there is already interest from managers at the Eldon Square Shopping Centre which houses over 140 retail outlets.

With planning approval already in place, Professor Younger said they were ready to start drilling and it would be “full steam ahead in the New Year”.

“We know that Newcastle is built on a bed of granite and depending on the mix of rock at this depth we are optimistic of reaching temperatures not far short of boiling point.

“This would provide a fully renewable and energy supply, massively reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and reinforcing Newcastle’s position as the UK’s most sustainable city which we have won two years running.”

Water deep underground gets heated by the naturally-occurring low-level background radiation that is found in all rocks. Some rocks are far better at producing heat than others – especially granite of the kind the team is expecting to find under Newcastle.

The project is expected to last six months and the team hope to be able to pump out the first hot water in early June.

The Newcastle-Durham project is one of three to get a share of the £1.1M Government funding – the others being Keele University and Cofily District Energy in Southampton.

This is the second time in 12 months the Newcastle team has been successful – last year they successfully siphoned water at a temperature of 40oC from a 1km twin-borehole at Eastgate, in Weardale, County Durham.

“Our aim is to rise to the challenge of putting a novel form of deep geothermal energy at the very heart of city centre regeneration,” said Younger.

“If successful it will pave the way for similar projects across the country where we know similar deep fault lines exist such as Carlisle and the Craven Faults in West Yorkshire and Lancashire.”

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