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The Warsaw Voice » Other » June 17, 2009
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Heat From Coalmine Water
June 17, 2009   
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Researchers at the Central Mining Institute in the southern city of Katowice have developed a new technology to generate heat from water pumped out of defunct coal mines.

The technology may be used to build a geothermal power plant to supply heat to the new Silesian Museum being designed in Katowice. This would be the first installation of this kind in Poland. Last fall the Katowice researchers were singled out for praise in a national environmental competition called the Pantheon of Polish Ecology.

The 183,000-cubic-meter Silesian Museum will be built in the city center on a 6-hectare plot previously occupied by the Katowice mine. The museum will be located just 150 m from the mine shaft and could wholly rely on geothermal energy for heating purposes, says Eleonora Solik-Heliasz, the project's manager.

The Katowice mine was closed in 2001, but water still has to be pumped out of it in order to ensure the safe operation of neighboring coal mines, the researchers say. The water is pumped out via the Bartosz II shaft at a rate of 324-378 cubic meters per hour on average. Meanwhile, just 109.6 cu m would be enough to meet the museum's heating needs, the researchers say.

In the system designed for the museum, heat would be captured on the surface and fed to a geothermal power plant relying on compressor heat pumps and co-generation units. This would be the most economical heating system among those considered for the museum, the researchers say. The system would include three heat pumps (plus a standby one) with a total capacity of 3,035 kW and two co-generation units fueled by natural gas and generating 600 kW of electric power. Electricity would be used to power the heat pumps, and any surplus output could be sold to the local power distribution company. The system would supply water to heat the museum at a temperature of 45-60 degrees Celsius. A set of boilers fired by natural gas and oil would be used as an emergency source of heat.

Economical and eco-friendly
Financial calculations show that a system consisting of heat pumps and co-generation units would be 43 percent cheaper than a traditional heating network, the researchers say, adding that European Union funds could be used to carry out the project. If the system were 50-percent co-financed from the EU budget, the researchers say, the project would take eight years to pay for itself-or 2.5 years if co-financing reached 85 percent.

The heating system based on coal-mine water would emit only 76.8 Mg of carbon dioxide per year, a negligible amount close to zero-emission standards, the researchers say. To compare, CO2 emissions from a traditional heating system would reach 3,686.7 Mg annually.

The investor will make the final decision on whether or not a geothermal power plant will be built to supply heat to the Silesian Museum. The researchers are hoping their design will be used because it has many advantages over other designs. These include lower operating costs and reduced air pollution, they say. Moreover, the system promotes modern, environmentally friendly technology and creates an opportunity to use renewable energy sources available in the area.

The Central Mining Institute designed the system together with VERT Energy Consulting firm from Bielsko-Bia³a. The project was financed by the Silesian Museum and the Silesian Province Chairman's Office.

The heating system proposed for Katowice's Silesian Museum could also be used in other locations in Poland with conditions similar to those around the defunct Katowice mine, experts say.

Ewa Dereñ
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