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Decarbonising Heating and Cooling

Durham research is leading the way in addressing what is now the most pressing area of energy innovation needed to meet net zero.

Heat decarbonisation is now the most pressing area of energy innovation required to achieve our net zero targets. The transition to lower carbon heating solutions is a key strategic area at Durham Energy Institute and our research addresses these challenges across power generation, industrial processes and domestic energy efficiency. Research into new low carbon heating resources and technologies, and their deployment in different societies stretches across multiple disciplines and research centres at Durham University. The DEI-led Durham Heat Hub and Network for Decarbonising Heating and Cooling bring together these multidisciplinary capabilities and provides links and information to policy makers, industry and communities.

Heat is used for domestic, commercial and industrial purposes and accounts for around a third of UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Other large emissions sources include power generation, transport, industrial processes and agriculture. Around 50% of heat emissions come from the domestic sector, 20% from the commercial sector and 30% from the industrial sector. In the UK domestic and commercial setting, 98% of GHG emissions from heat come from space and water heating, with 2% from cooking. In the industrial sector, only 13% come from space and water heating; the rest are from specialised industrial processes.

Durham research is at the forefront of addressing these challenges. 

Key Capabilities

Our main areas of expertise include

  • Geothermal energy systems
  • Low grade energy recovery
  • Thermochemical innovation
  • Thermal Storage
  • Combined cooling and power (CCP)
  • Combined heat and power (CHP)
  • Thermal energy management
  • Smart thermal networks
  • Socio-technical energy systems
  • People-centred energy development, governance and equity
  • Affordable warmth

Key Researchers

NameDepartmentResearch areas 
Professor Jon Gluyas

Earth Sciences

Geothermal, minewater heat, helium, carbon capture and storage and rare earth minerals.
Professor Tony Roskilly


Thermochemical heating and cooling systems, CCUS, hydrogen technologies and networks, the design, control, and operational optimisation of energy systems. 
Dr Andrew Smallbone Engineering Energy systems integration, hydrogen transportation, hydrogen energy converters, thermo-chemical district heating networks, CCUS.     
Dr Janie Ling-Chin Engineering Thermal energy systems, health index for energy storage, LCA for new energy systems, CCUS. 
Dr Yaodong Wang Engineering Energy systems, including biomass and biofuels, trigeneration and cogeneration with thermal storage, renewable energy systems, organic Rankine cycle, thermal energy management, and building energy saving. 
Dr Yiji Lu Engineering Innovative integrated energy systems, thermal networks, conversion and thermal storage technologies, modelling and analysis of dynamic energy systems. 
Dr Huashan Bao Engineering Thermochemical technology for heating, cooling, energy storage, waste heat recovery and power generation.  
Professor Hongjian Sun Engineering Smart networks data processing and communications, demand side management and demand response, artificial intelligence for energy systems, and renewable energy sources integration.

Prof Jeroen van Hunen

Earth Sciences Modelling of geothermal heat extracted from abandoned, flooded mines; Carbon Capture and Storage; Sustainable, renewable, or clean energy solutions
Professor Sandra Bell Anthropology People-centred energy development, Socio-technical energy systems, Energy Vulnerability and Equity, Affordable warmth and Community Energy.
Dr Zhiwei Ma Engineering Thermal energy storage, low-grade heat utilization, and novel thermodynamic cycle development for heating, cooling, dehumidification and power generation. 


Current Projects


A Network for Heating and Cooling research to enable a net-zero future


Durham Heat Hub

Led by Durham Energy Institute, the Heat hub brings together heat research and heat decarbonisation initiatives and interests across the North East to expand capacity, drive forward innovation in heat decarbonisation and ensure that insights from the latest research is available to decision-makers. By bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers it will increase the "real-world" value of academic heat research in the North East of England.


Geothermal Energy

We are working with key sakeholders internationally, including governments and companies in the Oil and Gas sector, to promote the development of this clean, renewable energy source and increase the use of Geothermal heat for industrial and domestic heating. 


ICHP: Zero Carbon Emission Integrated Cooling, Heating and Power Networks

(Dr A.Smallbone, EPSRC June 21 Start)

The project aims to explore the potential to supply heating and cooling to domestic, commercial and industrial end-users via integrated zero-carbon emission cooling, heating and power (ICHP) networks using hydrogen.


DEcarbonisation of Low TemperAture Process Heat Industry, DELTA PHI 

(2020 to 2023, Zhiwei Ma and Tony Roskilly EPSRC)

Low temperature process heat is a major component of energy use in many industrial sectors including food and drink, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, manufacture of metal products and machinery, printing, and textiles. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with low temperature process heat generation and meet UK targets, in the long term, will require a transition to zero carbon electricity, fuels or renewable heat. In the short term this is not feasible. We propose an approach in which heat is more effectively used within the industrial process, and/or exported to meet heat demands in the neighbouring area allowing significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions per unit industrial production to be achieved and potentially provide an additional revenue source.


Hydrogen for Heat Laboratory with CHP system


Advanced hybrid thermochemical-compression seasonal solar energy storage and heat pump system (Solar S&HP) 

(2020 to 2023, Zhiwei Ma PI, EPSRC)

The project is developing a seasonal solar energy storage system which  can effectively store abundant but relatively low temperature solar heat in summer and utilise this at the desired temperature for space and hot water heating in winter, so that 100% solar fraction can be used for space and hot water 'zero-carbon' heating.


Solid Wall Insulation Innovation 

(Profesor Hongjian Sun)


Affordable Warmth Strategy with Haringey Borough Council

(Professor Sandra Bell)


HyNTS Future Grid Research

(Professor Tony Roskilly, OFGEM/Industry,  2022.)

The transportation of hydrogen will be a significant part of the future energy system and there is an urgent need to prove that the transmission network can be relied on in the same way it is today. This is the important focus of HyNTS FutureGrid project in partnership with National Grid.


A hydrogen powered Combined Heat and Power System

(Dr A.Smallbone,NELEP, March 2020)

The project targets “Decarbonising heat” by establishing a “hydrogen for heat” laboratory at Durham University. As a lab, it aims to act as a hub building on recent investments by UKRI into Durham University research and to host “innovative sources or technologies where the North East is showing leadership in the area of hydrogen energy”. This will start by developing an innovative combined heat and power (CHP) system which can run on hydrogen.


Network-H2: EPSRC Network for Research into hydrogen fuelled transportation

(Professor A.P.Roskilly, EPSRC, October 19 Start) 

The Network for Hydrogen Transportation (Network-H2) led by Durham which takes a leadership role across the energy, marine, on-road, rail and aviation sectors in advancing the rapidly advancing hydrogen-enabled transport sector.


An Integrated Energy System Planning Tool for net-zero Industrial Clusters

(Dr Janie Ling-Chin, EPSRC, Oct 2020)

This project will develop a “best of both-worlds” planning tool; a simpler solution which accounts for uncertainties and is more scalable for the analysis of multi-vector energy flows. The model will be initiated using real-world data from the Teesside Cluster but built into a flexible response surface methodology (RSM) framework as a case-study. The complexity will be made appropriate by populating the RSMs with more physical, multi-dimensional representations of cluster energy system components. The tool will be used to explore high-level planning scenarios and help support local efforts for decarbonising all the industrial clusters.

USER Project - Ubiquitous Storage Empowering Response

H-DisNet -  Intelligent Hybrid Thermo-Chemical District Networks

INCLUDE - a research centre for socially inclusive energy transitions

Carbon negative hydrogen from gasification of waste biomasses