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National Geothermal Centre to supercharge geothermal energy

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We're playing an intrinsic role in harnessing the UK’s potential for geothermal energy advancement, through the launch of a new, collaborative centre.

The National Geothermal Centre (NGC) will accelerate research and innovation for the geothermal sector by developing expertise, driving policy reform and promoting investment. It will also highlight new opportunities for transitioning sectors.

The centre, which launched this June, is a collaboration between Durham University, Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC), SHIFT Geothermal, with support from The Reece Foundation.

We met with Professor Jon Gluyas, Ørsted/Ikon Chair in Geoenergy, Carbon Capture & Storage, in our Department of Earth Sciences, and a founding member of NGC, to learn more about it.

What is geothermal energy, and why is it important?

Geothermal energy is very simply the heat of the Earth. Below ground the temperature rises with depth. Typically, the increase is around 30oC for each kilometre, though it can range from as low as around 15 to well over 200oC in areas with volcanos.

The heat can be extracted (using water usually) and then the heat used for heating our homes, bathing or if extremely hot (as steam) to drive a turbine and generate electricity. Even with electricity production there is lots of heat left over which can still be used.

The heat of the Earth is inexhaustible, much more evenly spread than say coal or oil and every nation can access it. The emissions of GHGs (greenhouse gases) are zero to tiny and the surface facilities are typically unobtrusive.

It is a sustainable ultra-low carbon energy source for all and is now the most pressing area of energy innovation needed to meet net zero.

Can you tell us more about the launch of the National Geothermal Centre?

The centre was launched in Edinburgh on 13 June 2024. It is supported by Durham University and the Reece Foundation, Shift Geothermal Ltd (a not-for-profit company) and NZTC (supported by the Scottish Government and Aberdeen City Region Deal).

The mission of the centre is to facilitate the uptake of geothermal energy in the UK with the aim of securing energy supply, cutting the emissions of GHGs and creating jobs.

It will drive collaboration between government, industry and academia, championing the integration of more geothermal heat and electricity into the renewable energy mix.

In what ways will the new National Geothermal Centre advance sustainable energy solutions and help reduce carbon emissions?

The main way geothermal energy will help cut emissions of GHGs is by displacing carbon-intensive natural gas from our heating systems.

How does the launch of the National Geothermal Centre align with the UK’s broader energy policies and goals for renewable energy adoption?

Geothermal energy fits beautifully with the UK’s boarder energy goals by displacing fossil fuels from an array of situations in which low-grade heat is required. Why burn gas at 1,000oC to heat bathwater when we can use heat from the Earth and emit no CO2?

The NGC will help maximise the contribution of geothermal energy to the UK government’s Energy Security Plan and the low-carbon strategies of the national and regional government.

It could create 50,000 jobs for the future and result in an annual avoidance of 10million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

What specific contributions and research initiatives from Durham University play a crucial role in the mission and operations of the new centre?

The NGC was initially conceived by staff in Durham back in 2012. Research since then has enabled us to define the UK geothermal resource, address issues of regulation and legislation and promote the cause of this sustainable but under-rated energy source. 

Specifically, Durham has a director on the NGC board and our existing and planned research on geothermal will be fed into the centre as the research matures.

Read more: National Geothermal Centre to supercharge geothermal energy - Durham University



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