[ENERGY] A conceptual hydrogeological model for fault-related geothermal energy resources in northern England.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Engineering


The AIM of the proposed project is: To develop a generic conceptual hydrogeological model for the occurrence, and likely response to development, of naturally warm groundwaters in and near major faults in northern England (with particular reference to the Alston and Askrigg Blocks and their bounding fault systems). The specific OBJECTIVES to meet this aim are as follows: 1. Review the world literature on fault-associated geothermal resources in non-volcanic regions, and consider the implications of this literature for geothermal prospecting in northern England. 2. Collate, collect and interpret data (geological, geophysical, hydraulic, geochemical) from existing and new deep geothermal boreholes in the study region, and from analogous sources of information (such as archival analyses of waters found near faults in deep mines of the region when they were working). 3. Develop a formal, conceptual hydrogeological model for the occurrence of sufficient quantities of deep groundwaters abundant and hot enough to support: (i) major direct-use geothermal applications (ii) power generation using binary-cycle plants. The conceptual model will take the form of a list of rigorously justified, simplifying assumptions which together summarise best hydrogeological understanding of this type of geothermal resource. 4. For two selected case studies: (i) Test the consistency between the conceptual model and available data by means of numerical simulations, using commercial software (e.g. FEFLOW or SHEMAT), of scenarios representing natural and pumped conditions for the geothermal reservoirs. Amend the conceptual model as appropriate, taking into account the findings of the numerical simulations. (ii) Apply the logic of the finalised conceptual model to develop protocols for further geothermal exploration and development, working with the partner company to identify appropriate ways of taking into account economic factors, engineering constraints (e.g. necessity and practical feasibility of hydraulic stimulation), and environmental risk management (e.g. safe handling of brines at surface and their efficient reinjection to depth). As the costs and practicalities of deep drilling and geophysics preclude solo FIELDWORK, the student would work as part of a team, alongside staff of Cluff Geothermal Ltd and their specialist contractors. Similarly, although analysis of waters from the boreholes will be undertaken by contractors, the student will be given the opportunity to experience lab analysis to ensure they understand the origins - and limitations - of data they will be interpreting. All of the costs of these activities will be borne by Cluff Geothermal Ltd, but all data arising will be available to the student, even though they personally will only generate a small fraction of it. The IMPACT of the proposed project would be manifold: (i) Direct contribution to the prospecting and development activities of a rapidly-growing, private equity funded geosciences business (Cluff Geothernal Ltd), as it moves towards completion of what seems likely to be the first binary geothermal power plant ever constructed in the UK (ii) Involvement in the development of a new UK industry, including direct engagement in discussions with the UK government's Department of Energy & Climate Change (iii) Raising of public awareness of geothermal energy and the geoscience on which it depends, for instance through established 'meet the scientist' activities at the annual British Festival of Science (which will be held in Newcastle in 2013 and thereafter every 4 years), at the hugely popular Great North Museum (now the most-visited tourist venue in the region), and through STEM promotion activities with schoolchildren in secondary schools near to the deep geothermal drilling sites the student will be working on. (iv) Participation in media interviews (national and local, broadcast and press), for which specific prior training will be given.


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