A previous location for hydraulic fracturing could potentially catalyze a renewable energy revolution in the UK.
The once controversial fracking location in Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, could now play a significant role in Britain’s transition to clean energy. A disused gas well is set to be repurposed as a geothermal energy source, a first in the UK.
The site, which was once fiercely debated by frackers looking to extract natural gas from shale layers underground, has come a long way since its inception. In 2016, Third Energy was given the go-ahead to begin fracking at a pre-existing well, but their plans were ultimately stopped by a government ban on using this technology in the UK.
CeraPhi Energy, composed of a group of ex-oil and gas professionals, is spearheading the transition. They aim to leverage their experience in traditional drilling methods to tap into the untapped renewable energy sources hidden beneath the earth’s crust.
Karl Farrow, with 30 years of experience in the fossil fuel industry, established the company in 2020 during the Covid-19 outbreak. The goal was to gather individuals with extensive knowledge in the oil and gas sector to tap into a fresh, sustainable energy source.
Upon receiving the keys to the gates, our initial action was to extend an invitation to the leaders of the nearby anti-fracking organizations to view our proposed plans for the area. The project is seen by many as a form of resolution and we believe it will have a positive impact. Therefore, their efforts to oppose fracking have potentially led to the implementation of clean energy.
The company found it to be a seamless shift to utilize their existing knowledge and resources for drilling to access renewable energy sources. The process of drilling for geothermal energy is very similar to that of drilling for fossil fuels, according to Farrow. The main distinction is that instead of extracting non-renewable resources, they are extracting a renewable source of energy.
One common method of utilizing geothermal energy is by drilling a hole that reaches a depth of approximately two to three miles. Cold water is then pumped through this hole at low pressures, circulating through the hot rocks located beneath the Earth’s surface. The heated water is then brought back up through a second hole and can be used to provide heat for buildings or to produce electricity.
Reworded: In contrast to fracking, there is minimal potential harm to the environment in this case. The well is securely sealed and the water lines function within a closed loop setup, eliminating any possibility of exposure to the underground area. According to Farrow, it can be likened to inserting a test tube into sand, creating a completely sealed space.
The final testing stage of the Kirby Misperton project has shown that Farrow’s theories and engineering calculations were accurate. In fact, some results were even better than anticipated. While the team had predicted temperatures of 90 degrees Celsius, they actually recorded temperatures of 110 degrees. Farrow plans to share these findings with the community, local authorities, and government bodies in order to highlight Britain’s geothermal potential.
“In the coming months, we hope to begin the development of the site and the transformation of wells into tangible projects,” he stated. Ultimately, Farrow envisions utilizing the heat extracted from geothermal wells to power local heating networks for residential buildings, schools, hospitals, office complexes, and recreational facilities.
Farrow stated that he believes this is the only gas heating competitor in the market. He also believes that it has the potential to make up 15-20% of the energy used for heat in the future, if not more. Historically, large oil companies have viewed geothermal energy as a mere experiment, but Farrow is confident that the world is entering a new era where geothermal energy will play a significant role.
CeraPhi has nine geothermal projects in the UK that have the potential for development. However, Farrow believes that the industry needs more support from the government in order to speed up its contribution to reducing carbon emissions from heating.
The United Kingdom has begun exploring geothermal energy, with initiatives such as the Seaham project in County Durham that utilizes water from mineshafts to provide heat for 1,500 new homes. Additionally, the Eden Project in Cornwall has implemented a system to generate heat for its indoor rainforest and Mediterranean biomes, as well as its offices, kitchens, and greenhouses.
Rewording: Geothermal energy has the potential to provide clean heating and also bring unexpected economic benefits to areas identified by the government as being in need of new investment, as part of their levelling up plan.
The University of Durham’s study has revealed that the top 10 areas in need of levelling up, as identified by the government, include Redcar and Cleveland, Middlesbrough, East Lindsey, Hartlepool, Northumberland, and Bassetlaw. Other potential locations for geothermal energy production are Newcastle upon Tyne, North East Derbyshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire, and Nottingham.
Based on calculations, the United Kingdom possesses a significant amount of geothermal energy that could potentially provide heating for all homes for a century. This renewable source could greatly reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuel imports and solely rely on gas from the North Sea.
According to him, geothermal energy is not widely recognized and needs to be brought into the public eye.