Circle of life: waste heat harnessed from cremation

Sensemaking / Circle of life: waste heat harnessed from cremation

British councils follow German and Taiwanese examples, with projects to re-use heat energy from cremations.

25 Jul 2011

British councils follow German and Taiwanese examples, with projects to re-use heat energy from cremations.

An emerging trend for recycling the excess energy generated by crematoriums is taking hold in the UK. At least 15 British councils are in the planning stages of projects that will re-use the energy from cremations to heat new buildings, according to Richard Powell, Secretary of the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities.

A typical cremation takes 80 minutes and generates between 200-400kW of waste heat. The exhaust gases have to be cooled very rapidly, from around 800C to 150C, and cleaned to rid them of mercury, before they can be released into the atmosphere.

Redditch Council in Worcestershire is the first British organisation to implement the idea. The energy from one crematorium will provide 42% of the heating demand for the new Abbey Stadium leisure centre, reducing gas fuel charges by an estimated £14,000 a year. Installation costs are expected to be no more than £40,000, with payback in fewer than six years.

A simple heat exchange system installed alongside the flue gas cleaning process will capture the excess warmth, which will then be transported to the nearby stadium in a heat transfer fluid via a water circuit and pump.

“This is a logical step in developing sustainable energy sources”, said Powell. “It’s much better for the environment, and cheaper, to use the energy for heating than to release it into the atmosphere.”

An Austrian crematorium also recently unveiled a similar scheme, to provide 20% of the heating for the headquarters for Vienna’s Bestattung Wien undertakers. “This technology is used in most of the modern crematoriums in Germany and also in Taiwan”, said Helga Bock of the project.

– Sophie Morris

Image credit: davidhills/istock

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