GEA heat pumps turn redundant Gateshead mine water into clean energy

GEA heat pump helps to decarbonize Gateshead

Using heat pumps to source renewable energy is becoming increasingly important in the battle against carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.

GEA is dedicated to tackling climate change and helping decarbonize district heating projects like this one in the Northeast of England. Our heat pumps are at the center of the Gateshead Mine Water Scheme, the largest mine water heat recovery scheme of its kind in the country.

Both Gateshead City Council and Gateshead Energy Company (GEC), as operator of the Gateshead District Energy Network (DEN), have committed to achieving zero carbon emission status by 2030. The mine water heat extraction system is part of Gateshead Council's zero carbon heat strategy. The first goal was to provide cheaper heat energy for all residents in the borough. The second goal was to identify a supplement to the combined heat and power (CHP) system initially installed with a lower carbon footprint.

Clean energy from coal mines

TheGateshead project aims to take the legacy mines from the first industrial revolution and convert that into a new green era of clean energy production. 

Two 3 MW / 4079 HP GEA ammonia heat pumps are installed to boost the natural heat extracted from mine water (15°C / 59°F) up to 80°C / 176°F to supply hot water to homes and other buildings in Gateshead. This low-carbon heat source is from coal mines 150 meters / 492 feet below the town center. When the energy from the mine water has been harnessed by the heat pumps, the water is returned to the mine at a temperature of 8°C / 46°F.

Using the GEA heat pumps, the mine water heating project adds an additional 12GWh / 40,945 million Btu of heat capacity to the council’s existing heat network. In addition to the 18 public and private buildings and 350 homes already served by the network, this boost represents four additional council buildings, a care home and up to 1250 new private homes. GEA is thrilled to play a role in the mine water scheme forming part of Gateshead Council’s Zero Carbon Heat strategy, which aims to provide low carbon heating for everyone in the borough.

Solar parks are also part of the concept - so that no fossil energy is required to run the heat pumps. The heat pump uses electrical energy to run the heat pumps. Approximately 1/3 of the total heat output is from electrical energy, as most of the energy (2/3) comes from the mine water. The electrical energy is mainly generated from solar parks, which are newly built on a field above the coal mines, which are part of the Gateshead District Energy Network’s projects.

GEA Omni control panel for heat pump

“What’s happening here is amazing because what we have in Gateshead is a legacy from the days of the coal mines, which was dirty energy. We are now a leader in the green energy revolution of today.”– Councilor Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council

– Councilor Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council

Ammonia heat pumps provide optimized performance

“Ammonia has been chosen as the natural refrigerant for this application as it offers the best efficiency and has zero global warming potential. At the given conditions ammonia heat pumps are 10 – 20 percent more efficient than F-gas (HFC/HFO) solutions.” Kenneth Hoffmann, Product Manager Heat Pumps, GEA Heating & Refrigeration Technologies commented.

GEA ammonia heat pump plant at Gateshead

GEA ammonia heat pump plant at Gateshead

John Burden, Director Project Sales, Heating & Refrigeration Solutions, at GEA UK added: “ GEA's highly innovative ammonia heat pump technology has been used in other district heating projects in the UK and around the world as we recognize the dire consequences of global warming. Given the UK government's ambitious targets to significantly increase the proportion of district heating in the UK, we expect to see many more new and ambitious projects in the coming years."

With today’s challenges of energy resource scarcity, it is only becoming more important to select best-in class efficiency to minimize the energy usage and base it on local sources to ensure long term sustainability. The use of ammonia heat pumps in the Gateshead project is a reflection of the advancement in the development of district heating. GEA has been at the forefront of this technology in recent years. Having developed and perfected the methodology, GEA’s engineers applied the technology in ways that really make a difference in serving local communities better and drastically reducing the level of CO2 generated by utilities.

The technical center with the control cabinets
GEA logo

GEA Scope of supply

  • GEA solution: two-stage screw compressor heat pump
  • Heating capacity: 6000 kW / 20473 MBH
  • Heat sink: District heating temperature from 65 to 80°C / 149 to 176°F
  • Heat source: Mine water from 7 to 15°C / 45 to 59°F
  • Heating COP: 2.9
  • Refrigerant: Ammonia
Decarbonizing district heating with heat pump technology


Join GEA’s Cooling Club webinar on District Heating entitled “Decarbonizing district heating with heat pump technology”. Svend Vinther Pedersen, Senior Consultant from The Danish Technological Institute and GEA district heating expert Kenneth Hoffmann will provide their insights on how to decarbonize district heating and decrease energy bills with heat pumps.
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