The fluid processes research laboratories provide high quality laboratory expertise and specialist services for a range of clients ranging from BGS (through its National Capability Programme) to commercial organisations and public sector clients around the world. The laboratories are split into five complementary sections providing state-of-the-art facilities and services for the understanding of complex fluid processes (biological, chemical and physical) in the geo- and biosphere, where appropriate, under representative in situ conditions. Laboratory scale experiments are supported by field-scale tests/observations to provide important information on scale and its impact on process. Expertise and the development of process based knowledge is supported by a wide network of laboratories within BGS, providing key inputs from analytical geochemistry to mineralogy and petrography.
The geomicrobiology laboratory facilities include specialised equipment to study the processes and effects of microbes on contaminant breakdown, transport and containment in a range of geological settings. Biological processes are increasingly recognised as an important part of the subsurface environment having major implications on the interpretation of geochemical and hydrogeological information.
The hydrothermal laboratory is an experimental facility able to simulate chemical reactions occurring between minerals and fluids at depth in the Earth's crust. Rock overburden pressures equivalent to depths of 2—3 km (50 MPa) and temperatures equivalent to depths of 10 km (400°C) can be reproduced using specialist pressure vessels.
The hydrates and ices laboratory is the newest research facility within BGS, having been 'spun out' from the Hydrothermal Laboratory in 2002. It was created to study the behaviour of gas hydrates within sediments under conditions commonly found in relatively shallow sediments in deep water, but has since broadened its capability to include ice-related processes such as those found in permafrost conditions. Study areas include gas hydrate dissociation within sediments, and its impact on slope stability and global climate; investigation of carbon dioxide (CO2) hydrate within sediments, and its potential importance for underground storage of CO2.
The transport properties research laboratory (TPRL) was founded in 1993 and undertakes research to examine the processes and mechanisms governing the movement of fluids (gas, water and solutes) in low permeability materials (clay rich media, bentonite, landfill liner clays, mudrocks and shales) using custom designed experimental apparatus. Studies have focussed on the development of process understanding associated with single/multiphase flow and accompanied rock deformation. Capability has expanded to include specialist equipment investigating the behaviour of fractures/faults and the development of novel tracer methodologies (injection of nanoparticles and the radiological tagging of gas) for the identification and characterisation of flow pathways.
The Gas Monitoring Facility provides equipment and facilities for the field measurement of a range of gas concentrations and fluxes in the near surface environment. This includes soil gas and atmospheric observations and those of the flow of gas across the soil/air boundary. The main current focus is on monitoring related to the geological storage of CO2, but research has also been carried out on radon, landfill gases, volcanic gases and in relation to geothermal projects.