REHAU’s tunnel energy lining concept, which cools underground transport tunnels whilst also using the heat extracted to provide free energy for the buildings above, was last week named Innovation of the Year at the International Tunnelling Awards held at the Conrad Hilton in Hong Kong.
Jörg Böbel from REHAU’s Shanghai office accepted the award on behalf of REHAU’s teams in the UK and Germany alongside representatives from consultants Arup and contractors Züblin at a lavish ceremony attended by 300 of the leading figures from the international tunnelling sector gathered to reward and celebrate the very best in the industry.
The event was hosted by Anthony Oliver, Editor of New Civil Engineer magazine, who gave this endorsement: “This year's project winners are all outstanding examples of how technical expertise and innovation can combine to deliver exciting, sustainable and hugely valuable infrastructure."
REHAU’s winning submission focused on the installation of the geothermal tunnel lining system in a pilot high speed rail tunnel in Austria alongside Arup and Züblin.
The tunnel energy lining concept is creating quite a stir within the industry and as such has also been shortlisted in the Innovative Use of Equipment category at the Tunnels and Tunnelling International Awards which will be announced shortly in Berlin.
It works by incorporating heat exchange pipework loops in REHAU’s RAUWAY flex pipe into the concrete tunnel lining during construction and then circulating a fluid such as water through the pipes. The heat energy generated from within the tunnels and from the surrounding ground is transferred to the fluid and then carried away to the surface where it can be extracted via a conventional heat pump.
REHAU has successfully proven that, not only is the system more effective than conventional tunnel ventilation in reducing temperatures underground but it is also more cost effective to operate; with the added benefit of generating free energy which can be used to heat buildings sited above.
It is possible to incorporate the pipework throughout a complete length of tunnel or, for rail applications, to focus on station areas where the issue of overheating is so critical for users.
As well as rail construction, REHAU’s technology can also be used in the same way to extract ground source energy from sewer pipes and from tunnels built to carry power supply cables, providing a valuable source of renewable energy and cooling the tunnel where necessary. The energy extracted can be sold to offset costs or used for public buildings.
REHAU is currently in talks with a number of potential partners about applications for the technology in several countries around the world including the UK.