How corpses could power a television to save on energy

 (DURHAM UK)

A UK crematorium wants to install turbines in two of its burners which would use the heat generated during cremation to provide enough electricity to power 1500 televisions. A third burner is to be used to heat the site’s chapel and offices.

The scheme in Durham would be the first of its kind in the UK, but experts say it could be followed by similar projects. Many crematoria are currently replacing their furnaces to meet government targets limiting the amount of mercury escaping into the atmosphere. Up to 16 per cent of mercury emitted in the UK comes from crematoria because of fillings in teeth. That figure is likely to rise to 25 per cent by 2020.

Mercury accumulates in the air and water, and can harm the brain, kidneys, nervous system and unborn children. It also affects the food chain, particularly when it is deposited in water and ingested by fish. Crematoria are required to halve such emissions by next year and eliminate them by the end of the decade.

Some have already fitted systems which use the heat from the burners to heat their buildings, nearby offices and, in one instance, a swimming pool.

Durham Crematorium, which is run by the local county council, is undergoing a £2.3 million project to install three new furnaces. The first phase, due to be completed early next year, will see a “heat recovery system” fitted to one burner to heat the building.

In a second phase, turbines on the other two burners could be installed to generate electricity.

Alan Jose, the crematorium’s superintendent and registrar, said: “We will have far more electricity than we can possibly need, so we would be feeding a reasonable amount into the grid. If there is genuine spare capacity to generate electricity, then we are certainly interested in investigating that.

“And if it was thought to be acceptable in the eyes of the public we would almost certainly pursue that. Apart from it being common sense for us to try to conserve energy, it also enables us to keep the fees down.”

Mr Jose said the crematorium did not want to upset anyone over the plans and added: “We don’t want to become known as a power station rather than a crematorium because we try to provide a reverend and decent place for people to have a cremation service.”

The amount of electricity which could be produced by the furnaces would depend on how much they are in use.

The crematorium currently has about 2100 services a year. On some days, all three burners are required. On others, only one is needed.

The turbines would be powered by steam produced from cooling the hot gases, at temperatures of at least 816 degrees Celsius, used to cremate bodies. Most heat comes from the gases used in cremation, with only a negligible amount from the bodies themselves.

Engineers estimate each turbine could produce up to 250 kWh. With both furnaces operating efficiently on full power, they could power about 1500 television sets.

In return, the crematorium would receive an income from energy companies under the feed in tariff scheme. The “heat recovery” system installed for phase one will provide about £2500 of heating per month.

In the UK, about 75 per cent of the dead are cremated.

Dr John Troyer, of the Centre for Death and Society, part of the University of Bath, said such schemes were likely to increase, but warned: “When you are talking about how to handle dead bodies, you need to take time and move slowly to avoid sounding too glib, insensitive or utilitarian.”

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