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Glasgow geothermal project heats up with first borehole

The first borehole has been drilled at the UK Geoenergy Observatory for Glasgow – the geothermal energy research site in Glasgow.

Marking the beginning of the 15-year research investment, a 7.2m high drilling rig broke ground on the site to form the first borehole for the observatory.

Over the next 15 months, 12 further boreholes of various depths will be drilled, which will enable research into Glasgow’s geology, its underground water systems and the potential for heat from the water in the city’s disused coal mines.

One of the biggest aims of the project is to find out whether there is a long-term sustainable mine water resource that could provide a low-cost, low-carbon heat source for homes and businesses.

Measurements will be taken from the boreholes, such as temperature, water movement and water chemistry. Environmental baseline monitoring of near-surface chemistry, gases and waters will also be measured.

geoenergy diagram

geoenergy diagram

Diagram showing an example of extraction of geoenergy

Lord Henley, the Undersecretary of State at the government’s Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, was joined by representatives from NERC and the British Geological Survey (BGS), who are leading the project.

Lord Henley said: “Clean growth and innovation go hand in hand, so as part of our modern Industrial Strategy we’re investing £31M into projects like this which could transform derelict coal mines into valuable low carbon sources of energy. Reusing deep mineshafts could help to reinvigorate local economies, creating new high-skilled jobs and boosting supply chains in traditional mining communities.

BGS Scotland Co-Director of the Lyell Centre Tracy Shimmield said: “The British Geological Survey will operate the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site, which will enable the UK and countries around the world to better understand how our industrial legacies can be turned into renewable heat sources.

“The observatory will tell us how much heat is down there, whether it can be sustainably used and replenished, and if it could power homes, businesses or even entire cities. This is the first time that this part of the Earth will be monitored closely and consistently, and once again NERC and BGS are at the forefront of innovation in environmental science.”

University of Strathclyde Professor of Geological Engineering and Chair of the UK Geoenergy Observatories Science Advisory Group Zoe Shipton added: “More and more of the solutions to decarbonising our energy supply will need to come from beneath our feet. Ensuring we take forward these solutions in a sustainable way means understanding more about how the system works.

“The UK Geoenergy Observatories will build up a high resolution picture of the underground system, providing a breakthrough in our understanding. This hasn’t been done anywhere else in the world. What we learn in Glasgow will lead the way in understanding how to balance our need for resources, with keeping people safe and protecting our environment.”

The BGS will make data from the Glasgow observatory available online from 2019. Data is already being collected and interpreted - the core samples taken from the ground during the drilling process will become a key data source for the project.

The observatory is one of two sites proposed in the £31M UK Geoenergy Observatories investment commissioned by NERC.

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