Glasgow geothermal project heats up with first borehole

The first borehole is being drilled at the UK Geoenergy Observatory for Glasgow, allowing scientists to ‘see’ underground at the geothermal energy research site in the east end of the city.
Glasgow geothermal project heats up with first borehole Glasgow geothermal project heats up with first borehole Glasgow geothermal project heats up with first borehole Glasgow geothermal project heats up with first borehole Glasgow geothermal project heats up with first borehole

(From left to right) Vanessa Starcher, drilling site engineer at BGS, Ian Manson, chief executive of Clyde Gateway, Lord Henley, parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, John Ludden, CEO of BGS, Councillor Anna Richardson, Glasgow City Council, Hamish Campbell, drilling site engineer for BAM Ritchies

Duncan Moore


Duncan Moore

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 more 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 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.

The observatory is one of two sites proposed in the £31 million (US$39 million) UK Geoenergy Observatories investment commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK's leading funder for environmental sciences, and operated by the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site will enable the UK science community to study the low-temperature mine water geothermal environment just below the Earth's surface.

"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," said Tracy Shimmield, co-director of the Lyell Centre, BGS Scotland. "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 the BGS are at the forefront of innovation in environmental science."

Professor Zoe Shipton, professor of geological engineering at the University of Strathclyde and chair of the UK Geoenergy Observatories science advisory group, 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.


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