We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Energy Policy and Thought Leadership

We could use old coal mines to decarbonise heat – here’s how

Dr Charlotte Adams from Geography and Durham Energy Institute Executive Director Professor Jon Gluyas believe that the UK's abandoned deep mines could meet our future energy needs. Natural gas still supplies around 70% of UK heat demand. There are fewer low carbon alternatives for heat production than there are for electricity. Geothermal heat is one solution that offers a low carbon, secure and continuous energy source and they believe it is possible to access this heat in the abandoned mines around the UK.

Read the comment piece in The Conversation UK.

Smart use of grid capacity and spreading costs fairly

A blog by Andrew Wright, Ofgem Senior Partner, Energy Systems and DEI Advisory Board member.

Andrew discusses plans for a smarter, more flexible system which captures the benefits of changes for customers and keeps costs low.

Electricity storage: Friend or foe of the networks?

Read Professor Tooraj Jamasb's comment piece in Nature Energy exploring whether storage technology will eventually lead to self-sufficient consumers and spell the end of the networks as we know them.

(June 2017)

wlscience/flickr, CC BY-SA

California’s rain may shed light on new questions about what causes earthquakes

Gillian Foulger, Jon Gluyas, and Miles Wilson, Durham University

Can California's wet weather make earthquakes more likely? Scientists are still learning about what triggers these events. Even human activity can be a culprit. Read the Conversation comment piece based on Durham University research.

(February 24, 2017)

Imagining tomorrow's low-carbon electricity system

A blog by Andrew Wright, Ofgem Senior Partner, and DEI Advisory Board Member

In this blog Andrew writes about what tomorrow's low-carbon electricity system might look like. Electricity is an essential public service and the lifeblood of a modern economy. A successful electricity system is one that people and businesses can rely on to provide the electricity they need, when they need it and at a price they can afford. How can this be ensured?

Read the full blog at

(March 2017)

DEI papers feed into Key Actions of the European Strategic EnergyTechnology (SET) Plan

Durham University, through DEI, has contributed the most ) of any institution in Europe to the Input papers for the EuropeanCommission’s consultation (Nov 2015 to 2016) as well as coordinating two of these submissions.Submissions represents all European Universities undertaking work in Energy.

Find out about other responses to Government and Policy consultations submitted by DEI.


Professor Jon Gluyas: North Sea oil well worth second look

It's time to look again at revitalising the offshore industry instead of investing in fracking, writes Professor Jon Gluyas in the Scotsman

Read more:

Energy policy under the new Conservative government

Following the surprise results of last week’s general election Dr Chris Dent, DEI Co-Director for Impact and senior lecturer in engineering, analyses the Conservative manifesto to identify what the new Government’s energy policies are likely to be. He identifies a tension between an emphasis on affordability and security of supply in the manifesto and environmental commitments expressed personally by leading figures of the party. Only time will tell how this tension will play out in actual policy over the next 5 years.

Read the full article on Energy in the Conservative Manifesto.


Shale rock crosssection

Whatever happened to the great European fracking boom?

Liam Herringshaw analyses why the boom in shale gas has not materialised in Europe and why it is crucial that research into fracking continues.

The European shale gas boom has not materialised in the way that some were predicting. We are a far cry from the situation a few years ago, where interest in fracking in Europe was gathering pace on the back of the successes in North America.

The UK appeared to be leading the way, with drilling activities in north-west and south-east England. Companies started snapping up exploration licences right across the continent, and prospects from Scandinavia to the Urals found themselves being eagerly appraised.

So what’s happened, and what do the prospects for Europe look like now?

(12 Mar 2015) » More about whatever happened to the great European fracking boom?

ReFINE Research Forms Part of Environmental Audit Committee Report

Evidence provided by ReFINE researchers formed part of the newly published report on fracking by the UK Government's Environmental Audit Committee.

Read the House of Commons Report

ReFINE research was referred to on the issues of hydraulic fracture extent and the levels of radioactive materials present in fracking flowback waters.

A key issue highlighted in the report was the necessity for the monitoring of abandoned wells. This was a recommendation made by ReFINE in the research paper "Oil and Gas Wells and Their Integrity: Implications for Shale and Unconventional Resource Exploitation" Marine and Petroleum Geology, Volume 56, September 2014, Pages 239–254

Find out more about our ReFINE project at

Beyond the pipelines

Professor Gavin Bridge, Department of Geography, argues that the globalisation of the gas industry through the increased use of liquified natural gas (LNG) is not without risk. The capacity to import more gas makes the UK more resilient. Yet it also introduces new uncertainties and vulnerabilities.

Read Prof Bridge's article in the Conversation on Beyond the pipelines: gas goes global through LNG, but not without risk and his article in Energy Focus magazine (the journal of the Parliamentary Group for Energy Studies) Vol 31 Number 3, December 2014.


credit Battenbrook

Let's talk about fracking blog post

Last month, Professor Richard Davies of the DEI's ReFINE (Researching Fracking In Europe) project gave a Geological Society of London (GSL) Lecture entitled ‘Fracked or Fiction: What are the risks associated with shale gas production?’ In this guest post for the GSL Richard Davies and Liam Herringshaw (Earth Sciences) explain a bit more about the challenges faced in researching the contentious topic of shale gas.

Read the blog post at (published on 21 May 2014)

DEI’s Simon Mathias provides the technical evidence for DECC report on CO2 Storage Liabilities in the North Sea

The independent report on ‘CO2 Storage Liabilities in the North Sea – An Assessment of Risks and Financial Consequences’ was commissioned by DECC to provide a basis for understanding the technical risks and financial consequences of CO2 leakage from a geological storage site. Simon Mathias, Reader in Computational Geoscience at the Department of Earth Sciences, produced two out of the three technical analysis reports which formed the basis of the DECC report – the Annex A2 Cap Rock Study and Annex A3 Fault Study.

The main focus of the report was to better understand the probability and scale of contingent liabilities that arise during storage. These liabilities have been identified by companies as a major obstacle to the development and deployment of CCS. The report forms part of the Government’s work towards its policy of Increasing the use of low-carbon technologies

The report developed estimates of the probability and rates of leakage for each of the most likely leakage pathways, namely those related to engineered structures which penetrate the storage site (operating and abandoned wells) and those associated with the geological features of the storage site (the integrity of the caprock and faulting).

The report identifies the risk of experiencing a leak over the anticipated lifetime of a storage site is considered to be very low and the magnitude of any associated CO2 loss is estimated to be low and manageable through existing and proven corrective measures. The overall financial consequences of leakage are therefore considered to be both definable and manageable.

The final report and Annexes are available to download from the Gov.UK website.

DEI response to IPCC Mitigation of Climate Change report

DEI welcomed the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change published on 13 April. The Working Group 3 report – the third and final volume in the current IPCC Fifth Assessment Report – assesses the options for mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the expert comments responding to the IPCC report from Prof Simon Hogg, Prof Janusz Bialek, Prof Damian P. Hampshire, Dr John Bothwell, and Dr Charlotte Adams.

Prof Janusz Bialek

International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) changes its tune on gas as way to mitigate climate change

DONG Energy Professor of Renewable Energy, Janusz Bialek, comments on a significant change in strategy to stem climate change.

Read his full comment piece from The Conversation.


Smart meter installation

Smart meter roll-out: DEI gives expert evidence to the House of Commons Energy & Climate Change Committee

Professor Harriet Bulkeley gave evidence at the Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry into Smart Meter Roll-out on Tuesday 14 May 2013 at the Palace of Westminster.

The Committee’s inquiry explores DECC’s preparations for smart meter roll-out and some of the concerns that have been raised.

Find out more and read the evidence submitted which was based on the findings from the Customer-led Network Revolution project.

Rt Hon Ed Davey MP and DEI's Prof. Jon Gluyas

The DEI co-host a roundtable event on ‘The Future of the UK Energy Mix’ to facilitate dialogue between industry, academia and government.

11 February 2013

On the morning of Monday 11th February 2013, Professors Richard Davies and Jon Gluyas from Durham Energy Institute (DEI) were part of a high level roundtable event with the Right Honourable Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The 90-minute meeting, which also included Professor Sir David King, formerly the government’s chief scientific adviser and Angela Knight, Chief Executive of Energy UK amongst others, was presented in partnership by DEI, the BG Group and Prospect Magazine to facilitate discussion of the UK’s future mix of energy supplies. The discussion focused on the question 'where should the UK get its energy and is government policy on course to take us there?'.

The desire to cut carbon emissions while securing affordable and competitive energy, in a time of changing technology and high global oil prices, is among Britain’s greatest challenges. Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, confronted this knot of problems at in the discussion. Amongst the issues discussed were; shale gas fracking, electricity market reform, oil production and carbon capture and storage. All of which are specilaist areas for the DEI.

Concluding the event, one member of the panel commented that the magnitude of the problems faced by Britain and the world were so extreme that energy reform on the required scale could only be realistically thought of as a 100-year project.

“A 100-year project?” said Davey. “We don’t have the time.”

Professor Davies commented: “We were delighted by the extent to which the Secretary of State was able to engage with us and found this exercise very worthwhile. It’s part of a useful, ongoing dialogue DEI has at the highest levels.”

A full transcript of the discussion was published by Prospect magazine and can be found here:

Prospect magazine also published an article discussing the event in Prospect March 2013 issue entitled 'What should Britain Do? Ministers and Scientists debate the options' by James Elwes

Images used are courtesy of Ken Sheriff


The DEI gives evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change

27 November 2011

Professor Richard Davies gave evidence at an inquiry session on the ‘Impact of Shale Gas on Energy Markets’ by The Parliamentary Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change in Westminster.

The committee’s inquiry follows up on the Committee’s previous report into Shale Gas published in May 2011. Since then a number of new, but divergent, estimates have emerged of the amount of recoverable shale gas reserves in the UK and Europe. The committee is investigating why there is such variation in the estimated amount of Shale Gas and the implications of the “shale gas revolution” for energy markets around the world.

The current inquiry explores a range of issues, including:

• An update on how much shale gas there is in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world and what proportion is likely to be recoverable;
• Understanding the American experience of shale gas and its wider implications for gas markets around the world; and
• The impact that shale gas could have on the transition to a low carbon economy

Further Information:


Durham Energy Institute submits response to DECC Consultation on Shale Gas Fracturing

1 June 2012

Professor Gillian Foulger and Professor Richard Davies have submitted comments in response to the DECC consultation on shale gas fracturing. 

DECC had invited comments in response to an independent report entitled “Preese Hall Shale Gas Fracturing: Review and Recommendations for Induced Seismic Mitigation”.    The report focussed on the cause of seismic events experienced in the Blackpool area last year during shale gas hydraulic fracturing operations at Preese Hall and made recommendations to mitigate the risks of similar events in future. 

The response from Durham highlights areas of work not featured in the DECC report which should be undertaken as part of the decision-making process when siting future fracking projects and assessing their environmental impacts.

DEI's Janusz Bialek appointed as DECC / EPSRC Science Policy Fellow to DECC

28 May 2012

Professor Janusz Bialek has recently been seconded for 6 months as a DECC/EPSRC Science Policy Fellow to the Department of Energy and Climate Change where his main role will be working on the Electricity Market Reform (EMR).

The reforms are designed to provide investors with transparency, longevity and certainty in order to attract £110 billion of investment to bring forward new low-carbon power generation for the 21st Century. 

DEI advise Government on Smart Grids

2 February 2011

The report produced by Durham Energy Institute outlining the conclusions and recommendations of a meeting with leading industrialists, academics and the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been published this week. 

The meeting, entitled Smart Grids: the Broken Value Chain took place in November 2010 and was attended by Ofgem and many leading UK power companies.  It proved a very successful meeting, which aimed to tackle barriers to taking UK energy policy forward.  The report produced following the meeting has been received by Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, who has commented that he read the note of the meeting with interest, particularly the need for leadership, the importance of customer engagement and the need for commercial incentives. 

The report is available via the link below.


Durham Energy Institute submits response to Ofgem's Project TransmiT call for evidence

18 November 2010

Professor Janusz Bialek and Professor Phil Taylor have submitted comments in response to Ofgem's Project TransmiT call for evidence.

Project TransmiT is Ofgem's independent review of transmission charging and associated connection arrangements. The project aims to determine whether all or part of the transmission charging regime should be modified and to identify what changes can be made to facilitate the timely connection of new generation.

Views have been sought from stakeholders, an independent advisory panel and experienced academic commentators.

More information about Project TransmiT.