An investigation of the geothermal potential of the Upper Devonian sandstones beneath eastern Glasgow

Watson, Sean McFie (2022) An investigation of the geothermal potential of the Upper Devonian sandstones beneath eastern Glasgow. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The urban development of the city of Glasgow is a consequence of its economic development, in part fuelled by local coalfields which exploited rocks in the same sedimentary basin within which geothermal resources in flooded abandoned mine workings, and deeper hot sedimentary aquifers (HSA), are present. This creates an opportunity to provide geothermal heating to areas of dense urban population with high heat demand. The depth of the target HSA geothermal resource, in Upper Devonian aged sandstones of the Stratheden Group, beneath eastern Glasgow was determined by gravity surveying and structural geological modelling. The estimated depth of the geothermal resource ranged from c.1500-2000 m, in the eastward deepening sedimentary basin. To reliably estimate the temperature of the geothermal resource, rigorous corrections to account for the effects of palaeoclimate and topography on heat flow were applied to boreholes in the Greater Glasgow area. The mean regional corrected heat flow was calculated as 75.7 mW m-2, an increase of 13.8 mW m-2 from the uncorrected value of 61.9 mW m-2, emphasising the extent to which heat flow was previously underestimated. Extrapolation of the geothermal gradient, calculated from the mean regional corrected heat flow, results in aquifer temperatures of c. 64-79 °C at depths of c.1500-2000 m beneath eastern Glasgow. The geothermal resource may, therefore, be capable of supporting a wide variety of direct heat use applications if sufficient matrix permeability or fracture networks are present. However, diagenetic effects such as quartz and carbonate cementation were found to restrict the porosity in Upper Devonian sandstones in a borehole and outcrop analogue study. These effects may likewise reduce porosity and intergranular permeability in the target aquifer, although this crucial aspect cannot be fully understood without deep exploratory drilling. To quantify the magnitude of the deep geothermal resource, the indicative thermal power outputs of geothermal doublet wells located in Glasgow’s East End were calculated for the first time, with outputs ranging from 1.3-2.1 MW dependent upon the aquifer depth. This, however, is predicated upon an aquifer permeability of c. 40 mD, which if reduced to 10 mD or less due to the effects of diagenesis, significantly reduces the thermal power outputs to 230-390 kW. The lack of assured project-success, given uncertainties related to the aquifer properties at depth, coupled with high capital costs of drilling, pose barriers to the development of deep geothermal energy in Glasgow. Further investigation of the economic viability of geothermal exploration, and alternative technological solutions is therefore required to mitigate the technical and economic risks. However, if sufficient matrix permeability or fracture networks are present at depth in the Upper Devonian sandstone sequence, then the potential contribution that geothermal energy could make to meeting local heat demand, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and addressing the ‘energy trilemma’ in Glasgow is significant.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering
Funder's Name: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), European Commission (EC)
Supervisor's Name: Bradley, Professor Fiona, Westaway, Dr. Robert and Burnside, Dr. Neil
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82687
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2022 11:13
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2022 09:31
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82687
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