UK goes greener with geo-pressure technology

The installation of gas pipeline power stations throughout the UK could generate up to 1 gigawatt of electricity and dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

The future of renewable energy may be significantly advanced this year by British engineers’ plans to place turbines in the thousands of gas pipes that zigzag their way beneath the country. The turbines will produce clean and renewable electricity from the natural gas created in the piping network, which is currently being wasted.

The initial segment of the project will begin in east London later this year and will generate 20 megawatts of electricity by 2010. Engineers plan to implement the technology throughout the whole of the UK and, by doing so, will achieve the same amount of power as that of a coal or nuclear power station.

The technology has been developed by the geo-pressure clean energy company 2OC, who aim to provide clean energy to ensure the long-term viability of the planet. Andrew Mercer from 2OC explains that the new technology will work by capturing the natural gas and decompressing it at hundreds of sites installed throughout the network known as letdown stations. The decompression of the gas will then drive a turbine, which will produce power that will then be piped out to stations and homes. 2OC is collaborating with the National Grid, which owns most of the gas pipes in the UK, to install mini power stations at various locations. Mercer commented: “We’re very lucky that someone else has built this pipeline infrastructure. We can borrow it to produce renewable energy.”

The turbines used can each generate 1MW of electricity and according to 2OC, if exploited worldwide, geo-pressure technology would be capable of generating between 100 and 400 GW of electricity and would have a phenomenal effect on reducing carbon emissions.

But the advantages of geo-pressure do not stop at merely generating a cleaner form of power. By decompressing gas it also causes a dramatic drop in temperature, which Andrew Mercer believes could be used to replace refrigeration units. 2OC is therefore conversing with companies who are interested in locating computer data centres near the letdown stations as a means of producing a greener method of cooling equipment within the data centres. Mercer is so confident and enthusiastic about the technology, which he has labelled “free cold”, he believes it would be capable of cooling London’s Underground rail network.

Geo-pressure technology is not unique to the UK or 2OC as turbo expanders were set up in the US in the 1980s and comparable equipment has also been experimented with in Europe. But 2OC believes that by combining the already tried and tested technologies with their unique installation expertise, they are demonstrating an exciting way of tackling climate change. As Michael Edge, the chairman of 2OC said:
Never before has the world needed a clean energy giant as much as it does today”.

Gabrielle Pickard for RT