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Ohio geologists study potential for geothermal in abandoned coal mines

By District Energy posted 02-09-2021 21:15


Energy News Network


Geologists at Ohio University are exploring the potential to turn abandoned coal mines into sources of carbon-free heating and cooling.

Ohio is home to thousands of abandoned coal mines, which have become both public safety and environmental hazards as they leach acidic pollution into nearby waterways.

“We have a horrible legacy of acid mine drainage in Ohio that has destroyed the life in streams,” said Ohio University geologist Dina López, who has studied the problem for more than a decade. 

Lopez also has long studied issues related to geothermal energy at locations in both the United States and in El Salvador, where she grew up. That work led her to explore the possibilities for flooded coal mines. Those mines generally don’t present acid drainage problems, because oxygen doesn’t react with sulfides. And Ohio has lots of those sites.

Geothermal systems take advantage of steady below-ground temperatures, usually by circulating fluid through a closed loop of pipes that run underground and then up through buildings on the surface. In the winter, the fluid is warmed as it passes underground. In the summer, it’s the reverse. 

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