’Hot rocks’ found at cement plant

’Hot rocks’ found at cement plant
Published: 16 December 2004

A former cement works in County Durham, UK is to be the site of the UK’s first "hot rocks" village.  The Blue Circle cement works at Eastgate, near Stanhope, closed in 2002 with the loss of 147 jobs. A task force set up after the closure opted to search for natural hot water deep below the site. More than three months after drilling began, experts have revealed enough geothermal energy has been found to make the project viable.

 A team began drilling in September, boring 1000m below the Weardale hills. A spokesman for the Weardale Task Force said: "The results of the drilling have established that there is a viable source of hot water on the site. "This news allows the final stages of the Eastgate site to be developed into the UK’s first renewable energy model village incorporating geothermal energy."

Demolition of the cement works site will begin in the New Year. About 150 jobs will be created initially, with more being generated when the complex is completed. More than £500,000 of public money has been spent on the test drilling project. John Hamilton, chairman of the Weardale Task Force, said: "The success of this project is largely due to the preliminary work carried out by staff from the University of Newcastle, who identified the exact spot for the drilling.  "The hot water from the site will be used for heating and power generation. This could make Weardale the first truly sustainable community in the British Isles. Draft plans for the site include housing, leisure tourism and high technology business developments”.