Heathrow Airport is looking at using geothermal heating to combat its runways from freezing in winter.
The British Airports Authority said the underground heating technology could prevent a repeat of the last winter, when the airport had to be closed for five days and 4,000 flights cancelled due to ice on the runways.
The system stores heat gathered from the ground during the warmer months, and releases it in the winter to keep the temperature on the runways and stands above freezing. However the technology is still in the development stage.
Steven Morgan, BAA’s capital projects director, told Building magazine: “It’s not the snow that caused problems last year, it was the ice.
“We are working on a concept to capture geothermal energy from the surface of the tarmac ... during the summer, to then provide a heating capability so the stands don’t freeze in the winter.
“We would store the energy underground and use it to gently heat water that would then be run through pipes in freezing conditions to warm the stands, which are the slabs of concrete directly beneath the planes, to just above zero.”
Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, ordered an urgent review into services after thousands of passengers were left stranded, leaving BAA under pressure to avoid the closures of last year.
The airport operator has pledged to invest £50 million in Heathrow to try and avoid any further problems.
The Winter Resilience Enquiry Report said BAA was responsible for a lack of “preparedness” and advised it to establish a “snow plan” to cope in the future.