Water from 'hot rocks' beneath County Durham retrieved

Newcastle University's Professor David Manning said the breakthrough was "amazing".

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Scientists have pumped out the first hot water from the depths of rural County Durham as part of plans for an eco-village.

The site of the former Lafarge cement works in Eastgate, Weardale, has been earmarked for the multi-million pound scheme, which includes a "thermal spa."

A team has now managed to retrieve groundwater heated by hot granite rocks hundreds of metres below the surface.

It is hoped the project will create up to 250 jobs and boost tourism.

The eco-village is expected to cover an area equivalent to the size of 500 football pitches and is set to feature all five forms of land-based renewable energy available in the UK - hydro, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.

Water at a temperature of around 30-40C is brought up to the surface, where it passes through a heat exchanger before being sent back underground to be re-heated.

Newcastle University's Professor David Manning, who is part of the project team, said: "Water deep underground gets heated by the naturally-occurring low-level radiation that is found in all rocks.

"Some rocks are far better at producing heat than others, especially granite of the kind we have drilled into at Eastgate.

"This makes it one of the country's hotspots, where water starts warming up quite close to the surface."

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