Reducing GHGs from the heat system - Implementation of buried infrastructure as a heat source (Priestley Doctoral Scholarships)


Dr Catherine Bale (, Dr Fleur Loveridge (

Project description

The UK Government has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. While the last five years has seen a 50% reduction in carbon density of the electricity grid, the target is unlikely to be met without also tackling the gas network.

This is because gas, principally used to provide space heating delivers over twice the energy of the electricity grid. With an ever decreasing carbon intensity of electricity, one of the best routes to decarbonise heating is through use of ground thermal energy storage coupled with ground source heat pump systems. However, heat pump systems retain high investments costs, mainly due to the expense of drilling dedicated ground heat exchangers (GHE).

Efforts to reduce these up-front costs include using dual purpose buried civil engineering structures as GHE and for structure support. This technique has been successful for foundation piles, but is now being developed for other infrastructure such as metro systems, underground carparks, and water and wastewater infrastructure.

One of the challenges with these new types of GHE is that the heat user is not the same as the infrastructure owner meaning there are additional barriers to implementation. Depending on the number and nature of the heat users it may also require adoption of district heating networks (DHN) which adds an additional complexity.

This PhD project will make the first academic study of how infrastructure sourced ground thermal energy can be integrated with adjacent heat users, including via district heating.

The project will make use of a range of interdisciplinary methodological approaches including quantitative appraisal off technical systems, as well as qualitative policy assessment to:

  • determine the number, range and types of users most suitable to different types of infrastructure GHE using DHN models; this will depend on the nature of the underground space and whether there is an embedded heat source such as train breaking.
  • ascertain the nature of the financial and non-technical barriers to implementation of these solutions using a combination of financial and agent based modelling.
  • make recommendations about measure to incentivise change and increase uptake of infrastructure based GHE in support of national climate targets.

The project will span engineering and environmental disciplines and will include aspects of civil and mechanical engineering, economics, social science, and policy to provide a holistic approach to the problem in the context of both construction industry practices and energy policy and practice.

Key benefits

The Priestley International Centre for Climate brings together researchers cross-campus to deliver excellent research to underpin robust and timely climate solutions. Leeds has outstanding reputation for climate related research with more than 170 experts and 110 PhD researchers and an active research grant portfolio of over £70m. The Priestley Centre supports a range of events, activities and opportunities to foster exciting interdisciplinary collaborations including our Climate Exchange seminar series and public engagement events, Piers Sellers Prizes, Priestley Society and Priestley Climate Scholars. Find out more at

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1) or equivalent, and/or a Master's degree in the relevant subject area.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website.

If you require any further information, please contact the Graduate School Office e:, or t: +44 (0)113 343 1634.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.