Sheffield Heat & Power Sheffield City District Heating In Progress

Sheffield boasts one of the oldest District Heating Networks in the UK and has been established for over 25 years. Vital Energi has been at the forefront of installing these networks which continue to deliver reliable, affordable heating decades after their installation.

“Sheffield is one of the most established networks in the UK and for over 25 years it has shown how this technology can change the way we distribute energy. This project has saved money and also reduced carbon emissions by 21,000 tonnes annually. It is the very definition of a success story and can stand as an example to other cities who wish to adopt this fantastic technology.”

Ian Whitelock Joint Managing Director, Vital Energi

Project Overview

Sheffield boasts one of the oldest District Heating Networks in the UK and has been established for over 25 years.  Vital Energi has been at the forefront of installing these networks which continue to deliver reliable, affordable heating decades after their installation.

The original joint venture between Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Heat and Power Ltd (the private sector) was established in 1987. The aim was to provide a wide range of customers with reliable and cost effective energy from a low carbon energy source that is generated locally. 

The Challenge

Excavating new trenches in city centres (especially one that was bombed so heavily in world war 2) is extremely risky and onerous. To ensure the client had confidence in its capital expenditure budgets for new connections, Vital Energi now produces lump sum all risk prices for all proposed new connections thereby removing any uncertainty for the client.

The most challenging phase of work carried out on the network between July 1989 to March 1990 was the section known as Phase Two which installed the link between the city (and many of its council buildings) and the Bernard Road incinerator. This link forms a large part of the current ring main of large diameter pipe that serves the cities heating requirements today. There were two very notable elements of this project:-

1. A partial road closure of the extremely congested Sheffield Parkway was required to enable the installation of approximately 300m of trench to be excavated, with DN 400/520mm flow and return pipe installed, welded, ultrasonically tested, fusion welded jointed, sand surrounded and then reinstated to class 1 highway standard with MoT stone and tarmac. Possession was given on the Friday evening of the August bank holiday in 1989 and the tarmacing was being completed in the afternoon of the Monday bank holiday removing the traffic management works and returning it back to Highways by 18:00.

2. Once in the city, due to a combination of height differences between two roads and the requirement to cross the extremely busy dual carriageway at Arundel Gate it was decided that the only way of providing a link between Pond Street and Norfolk Street was by the installation of a 1800mm segmental tunnel 70m long with the drive shaft being located outside the Fiesta Cinema and the reception pit located outside the Crucible. What made this more interesting was the fact that the site investigation indicated that the tunnel would be partially in rock. However the tunnel was actually 100% rock but with hard work and perseverance it was completed with only a minor delay to programme.

Vital Energi's Solution

The focal point of the scheme is the incinerator which burns the city’s refuse, situated at Bernard Road. The incinerator burns 120,000 tonnes of municipal waste each year, producing up to 60MW of thermal energy and up to 19 MW of electrical energy. The steam that is created from burning the waste is converted to high temperature hot water for the community energy network whilst also producing electricity for sale to the National Grid, enough to power up to 19,000 homes. Annually, over 21,000 tonnes of CO2 is prevented from being released.

Over the last 22 years Vital Energi’s team of engineers have installed a network of more than 44km of specialist pre-insulated pipework beneath the streets of Sheffield’s City Centre and beyond. The network has supplied heat to over 2,800 homes and 140 public and private buildings including some of the city’s most prestigious landmark buildings such as The Lyceum Theatre, Millennium Galleries, Crucible, Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield City Hall and many university buildings. 

The client realised the importance of specifying the best jointing system and consequently insist on the installation of the “Band Muff” fusion welded joint system. This technology is only available in the UK by Vital Energi and extends the life span of the pipework from 20 years to 50 years. Vital Energi first installed the joint in 1989 on the material spine main that links the city with the Bernard Road waste incinerator and there has not been one single maintenance issue since. The entire installed district heating network is monitored by a network of sophisticated alarm panels located in plant rooms throughout the city. 


Over the past 22 years Vital Energi has continually been contracted to supply and install pipework across the whole of Sheffield City Centre. Carbon emission reduction aims and a high quality approach has resulted in Vital Energi continually being the partner of choice for the Sheffield urban regeneration scheme by the client. The Sheffield district heating scheme won the first CHPA Community Heating Award for its innovative, city-centre community heating scheme.


  • One of the UK's largest city heat networks
  • Supplies 2,800 homes and 140 commercial buildings
  • More than 50km of pre-insulated pipework installed
  • 21,000 Tonnes of CO2 emissions saved annually