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Harvesting Energy from Buried Infrastructure: current UKCRIC research

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ross Stirling, Dr Anil YildizORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The UK Government has a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Because 70% ofheating comes from direct burning of natural gas, this target cannot be achieved withoutdecarbonising the gas network. One of the best routes to decarbonise heating is through use ofground thermal energy storage coupled with ground source heat pump systems. However, heatpump systems retain high investments costs, mainly due to the expense of drilling dedicatedground heat exchangers (GHE) such as deep boreholes. One route to reducing these costs is touse buried infrastructure for simultaneous structural function and ground heat exchange. In thepast deep foundations, embedded retaining walls and trial tunnels have all been used as GHE.However, there is increasing interest in extending this approach to other shallow buriedinfrastructure, such as waste and drinking water distribution networks, and green infrastructuresuch as sustainable urban drainage and swales.The UK Collabatorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) is a consortium foundedby thirteen universities to provide an integrated research capability with a mission to underpin therenewal, sustainment and improvement of infrastructure and cities in the UK and elsewhere.Under the auspices of UKCRIC, a pump priming project called PLEXUS has been carried out. One ofthe research challenges of PLEXUS has been to consider how much heating and cooling capacitycan be obtained from using civil engineering infrastructure as GHE, and whether there are anyrisks to original structural function from the GHE operation. The project has included trialexperiments for (i) soil element thermo-mechanical and thermo-hydraulic behaviour, (ii) theoperation of sustainable urban drainage under heat injection, (iii) heat transfer characteristics of anear full scale water pipe segment, (iv) effects of temperature change on the formation of fats, oilsand greases in waste water treatment systems. This paper will present a summary of key findingsfrom the project and identify challenges for implementation of this valuable thermal resource.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Loveridge F, Shepley P, Stirling R, Yildiz A

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: European Geophysical Union General Assembly

Year of Conference: 2020

Online publication date: 04/05/2020

Acceptance date: 31/01/2020

Date deposited: 11/05/2020

Publisher: Copernicus Publications


DOI: 10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-19412