Durham University: The value of geothermal energy and carbon capture in tackling climate change

Tapping into geothermal energy would be a ‘win-win’ for tackling climate change – and capturing and storing carbon can also make an invaluable contribution. Those are two arguments outlined by Professor Jon Gluyas, from our Durham Energy Institute, as part of a new essay collection.

Politicians and scientists join forces for Net Zero solutions

‘Net Zero Exchanges: Connecting Policy and Research for Climate Action’ is published by the think tank Policy Connect and the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group.

It’s a collection of essays by academics and politicians setting out where work is still needed on climate change policy. It shows how readily to hand many policy and technical solutions are. And it demonstrates the strength of UK science and research and the level of cross-party support for climate action.

It’s been published ahead of COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Low carbon heat

Jon Gluyas’ first essay, with Cherilyn Mackrory, MP for Truro and Falmouth, Cornwall, sets out the ‘win-win’ from tapping into geothermal energy. There are currently 23,000 unused mines in the UK, include near almost all major cities.

These mines are full of water, warmed naturally by geothermal energy, providing the basis for major ground-source heat without having to dig new holes. The heat can be used directly or upgraded through the use of heat pumps to create district heat networks. Space heating currently accounts for half the UK’s energy use; in other countries, zero-carbon geothermal energy has successfully met domestic and industrial heat demands.

All the technology is proven, Jon and Cherilyn say: what is needed now is policy to bring the pieces of the puzzle together, including support for the initial capital investment for geothermal heat infrastructure.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

Some people dismiss CCS as untested and diverting attention from the real task of reducing emissions, but Jon Gluyas and Theo Clarke, MP for Stafford, argue CCS can reliably make an invaluable contribution to net zero.

In their essay they explore possibilities of CCS in the UK, including as a transition measure in industry, removing CO2 emissions from currently high-carbon industrial processes, while ensuring UK businesses remain internationally competitive.

Tackling climate change, locally and globally

At Durham University we’re committed to reducing our environmental impact, and improving the local environment, both for the people who live and work in the University and for the wider community.

The Durham Energy Institute produces world-class research for understanding energy decarbonisation and delivers integrated solutions for addressing climate change, incorporating social, policy and technical insights.

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