Feasibility study of capturing and using waste heat from power stations for warming homes.
A study looking at the feasibility of capturing and using waste heat from power stations for warming homes and providing hot water is to be carried out by the Energy Technologies Institute.
Heat is the biggest application of energy in the UK, accounting for 44% of all the country’s energy consumption, most of this used for heating homes and providing hot water.
The six month £140,000 project will examine the feasibility of capturing and using large quantities of waste heat from power stations and industrial processes and storing it underground for use later in homes and offices.
ETI Chief Executive Dr David Clarke said: “Capturing even 10% of this waste heat would have a significant impact on the UK’s total carbon emissions and security of supply, helping reduce our need for large quantities of imported fuels in the winter months when prices are highest.
“Most industrial processes, especially electricity generation, produce large quantities of heat which is usually emitted as waste to our rivers, sea and air.
“One of the main obstacles for making use of this waste heat is that it is not available at the same time and place as the demand. However it is technically possible to store very large quantities of heat energy below ground in geological structures such as saline aquifers or disused mines. The heat could even be accumulated through the summer to be used during the winter.
“Many of the potential heat sources and storage areas are close to centres of population and could be used to support large scale district heating schemes, but there are currently many uncertainties around the effectiveness, environmental impact and ultimate capacity of such systems in the UK.”
The UK’s total demand for heat is about 800TWh per year, which is about the same as the total amount released by all power generation and industrial processes as waste. However, the demand for heat is very variable, reaching very high peaks after work on cold winter days.
Currently 84% of UK homes are heated by gas, a system which has proved to be extremely robust and cost effective. Unfortunately it is very unlikely the UK will be able to meet its commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 if it continues to burn natural gas in individual homes and buildings.
The UK is also becoming more reliant on imported gas which may have implications for security of supply.
The ETI project will be led by consultants Buro Happold with input from Cambridge University, the British Geological Survey and IF Technology Group.
James Dickinson, project leader at Buro Happold, said: “The project team that we will be leading includes world-renowned experts in ground heat storage and modelling and its work promises to be ground breaking. Using waste from power stations for new or existing district heating systems and using the ground as a seasonal heat store would be a paradigm shift in low grade heat provision in the UK.
“If the feasibility study proves successful and the approach is proven through consequent pilot schemes it could help to reduce carbon emissions and replace direct gas-fired heating in the UK.”
It will investigate the cost effectiveness and practicalities of storing large quantities of heat for long periods to meet a significant proportion of the UK’s winter demand, evaluate the practical limits for this type of storage and where in the country it could be most effectively used.
The project will complete next summer after which the ETI will use its output to evaluate the practicality of proceeding to a large scale demonstration of this technology in a real world application.