UKGEOS ideas workshop
I (Kat Raines) attended the UK Geoenergy Observatories ideas workshop day in York.
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has commissioned the British Geological Survey to deliver two observatories (Glasgow and Cheshire) to enable the collection of new data on the underground environment for geoscientists by delivering a constant stream of seismic and groundwater data over the operation time of 15 years.
The take home message from the day is that there are unimaginable opportunities to conduct scientific research using UKGEOS which can have real social-economic impact. The Glasgow site will be open for research as of 2020 and the Cheshire site is currently undergoing planning permission. Now is the time for researchers, industry, business and regulators to start thinking about the questions that need answering about the subsurface environment and to initiate conversations with academic researchers to establish whether these questions can be addressed by UKGEOS.
This knowledge would underpin management, regulation, permitting and decision making on the way the underground environment is used, including how it could be used as a sustainable part of the world's energy mix. The data could improve understanding of known technologies, such as geothermal energy, carbon storage, compressed air storage and shale gas, as well as leading to new geoengineering and geotechnologies. It will also inform understanding of groundwater flooding, landslides, urban geological processes, landscape change, geomicrobiology and soils.
The focus of the workshop day as on decarbonisation, which is clearly a priority which needs to be addressed if we are to meet the requirements of the Climate Change Act. The UKGEOS site in Glasgow will be aimed at investigating the suitability of mine water geothermal, specifically in terms of sustainability and the risks from this process. Whereas, the site in Cheshire, which is in its planning stage, will have a slightly different focus, for example, subsurface energy storage, fluids, testing of borehole fluids and the online monitoring of seismicity and groundwater parameters.
This remit, as described on the BGS website has clear overlaps with the RATE programme. Within RATE we focussed on the subsurface environment principally in terms of fractures, specifically in regards to permeability and seismology, keeping in mind the development of the Geological Disposal Facility. There could be a real opportunity here to use UKGEOS to further our understanding of the subsurface environment in regards to the geological disposal of radioactive waste.
The work packages within the HydroFrame programme are the most closely related to the UKGEOS project. HydroFrame in the RATE programme developed methods for estimating repository-scale hydraulic conductivity of fractured rock masses, examined seismic attributes for fracture properties and explored and evaluated suitable seismic monitoring strategies of potential repository sites. Also, there was a focus on the importance of biogeochemical processes involving microbes and NORM on actinide mobility in the near-field environment of the radioactive waste repository. The RATE programme has clear links to potential research programmes which could involve testing in the field the mathematical models and laboratory studies conducted during RATE. This is only one example of cross over between research projects.
The aim of the UKGEOS workshop was to raise awareness of the UKGEOS project and to come up with a “proposal” in 45 minutes (!!!) describing a full NERC project which involves UKGEOS with a discuss on ideas which otherwise would not be possible or focussed on innovation which ultimately has a commercial goal. In the future I imagine there will be many other opportunities associated with UKGEOS.
There is workshop on the 20th of March which is focussed on the samples already obtained from the Glasgow site, for more information see here.