Oxford Brookes reveals geo-exchange heating system

Oxford Brookes has a new geo-exchange heating system at its Gipsy Lane site in Headington.

It will provide approximately 1.2GW of heating per year and replace fossil fuels which have been used until now.

The system is based on a collection of 14 coaxial boreholes, each of which circulates an environmentally friendly glycol in a sealed loop at depths of over 200m, to extract from and store energy in the ground. Two new heat pumps harnessing energy from these boreholes are integrated within Oxford Brookes’ existing systems to satisfy the university’s thermal needs.

Jerry Woods, Director of Estates and Campus Services at Oxford Brookes University, said: “This innovative project demonstrates Oxford Brookes’ commitment to the global challenge of climate emergency, and the ambition of reaching net zero.

“We are very proud to be the first UK university to have this pioneering heating technology operational, which will now begin to have a huge impact on reducing our carbon footprint, and moving us towards net zero in the coming years.”

Geothermal switch

Image: John Hayes, Director of Erda Energy Ltd, Richard Ambrose, Head of Operations at Black Mountain Developments, Professor Joe Tah, ProVice-Chancellor and Dean of Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment at Oxford Brookes University, and Jerry Woods, Director of Estates & Campus Services at Oxford Brookes University

Professor of Sustainable Architecture and Climate Change at Oxford Brookes University, Rajat Gupta,  said: “This pioneering low carbon solution to decarbonise heating at Oxford Brookes will not only help us in significantly reducing our carbon footprint but also demonstrate our commitment  to support Oxford city in its journey to net zero carbon emissions as part of Zero Carbon Oxford.

“Outcomes from this Geo-Exchange project could pave the way for future application in other campuses to help them become green.”

The project was made possible by a £2.3M Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme grant from BEIS. The work began in November 2021 and became operational on 29 July 2022. The project was delivered in partnership with Black Mountain Developments and Erda Energy Ltd.

Richard Ambrose, Head of Operations at Black Mountain Developments, said: “We are very proud to have worked in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University on this ground breaking Geo-Exchange project.

“Commercial buildings are key in the UK’s response to climate change and will require complete decarbonisation if the UK is to meet its legally binding obligations to meet net zero by 2050. UK Universities are estimated to hold around 10% of our commercial estate and so the leadership that institutions like Oxford Brookes is taking to remove fossil fuels from heating and cooling services could not be more important.

“The project is more than a statement of intent, it is real world action demonstrating Black Mountain Developments, Erda Energy and Oxford Brookes’ joint passion and commitment to cutting carbon in response to the climate emergency.”

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