Another Way to Alleviate Europe’s Energy Crisis


Aniko N. TOTH, David K. FENERTY, Gusztav SZTERMEN Jr

Key Words:

Energy crisis, vulnerability, geothermal energy, abandoned mines, mine waste, mine tailings, dump, heat


Stanford Geothermal Workshop




Direct Use



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The world is experiencing the first truly global energy crisis in history. The situation is especially perilous in Europe, which is at the epicenter of the energy market turmoil. Hungary has never been energy-independent: it has always imported the energy it needed. Currently, however, Hungary’s overall energy consumption has dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s. Hungary’s primary energy consumption was 1119.7 PJ in 2010, for example, but only 1004.9 PJ in 2022.This might seem like a positive development at first glance, but is in fact the consequence of something far less cheerful: more and more energy-intensive industries have shut down, unable to compete in the post-communist world. Up until the Ukrainian war, Hungary imported more than 55% of its energy -- mostly from Russia -- with natural gas making up the larger part of the imported energy. The 2022 Ukrainian war highlighted our vulnerability even more. The Hungarian government was/is feverishly searching for some source of independently produced energy. This article investigate an unusual geothermal source -- that of abandoned mines, slag pits and other mine waste. In the ’60 and ’70 northern Hungary had many coal mines. Beginning in the early 2000s these were gradually shut down, until by 2004 there was not a single operating coal mine in Hungary. These abandoned mines and mine-waste sites have for the most part been abandoned and not really renovated. Some of these abandoned mine-waste dumps had even undergone low-temperature ignition, and were allowed to continue smoldering. In this article, we present an example of how energy can be harvested from these smoldering dumps, calculate how much energy can be harvested, and explore how to use their heat energy in a direct way.

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