BGS geothermal energy research

Resource characterisation

Geothermal energy resources occur in a broad range of geological settings. The BGS Geothermal Team has experience in assessing and characterising shallow and deep geothermal resources.

The expertise of the team and wider BGS includes:

  • regional mapping and modelling of the geothermal resources
  • site feasibility studies and modelling
  • innovation of non-invasive techniques for improved characterisation and higher-accuracy exploration
  • siting of suitable borehole drilling locations, de-risking of drilling operations and advancement of testing techniques
  • advanced characterisation of the rock mass, temperatures and heat flows, and hydrogeological, chemical and microbiological properties
  • upscaling from borehole scale to reservoir scale
  • understanding the role of faults and fractures
  • coupled hydrothermal models and resource estimation methods
  • efficiency of heat transfer and the impact of heat dispersion

Resource sustainability and monitoring

The sustainable management of geothermal resources involves an appropriate utilisation rate that can be supported by the system for a long time. This is fundamental to avoid overexploitation. For example, having extraction rates higher than the natural replenishment of the system can result in a decline in either temperature or fluid volumes. Another example is having many users of the same resource without appropriate management.

Sustainable management of geothermal resources requires a good understanding of the geological setting and adequate monitoring of the system. BGS has experience in collecting a wide variety of physical and chemical data to monitor the state of geothermal reservoirs. Our research also aims to inform relevant regulation that has been developed to manage the resource, as well as optimised monitoring networks and new techniques for non-invasive monitoring of heat and flow.

BGS was a partner in the Horizon 2020 Managing Urban Shallow geothermal Energy (MUSE) project, investigating the use of shallow geothermal energy resources and use in urban areas across Europe.

Research was carried out at the BGS-operated Cardiff Urban Geo-Observatory, which monitors temperatures and water level changes via a large network of boreholes distributed across the city of Cardiff, including an instrumented, open-loop ground source heat system.

System understanding

Exploitation of geothermal resources requires a good understanding of geological structures, anticipated temperatures and hydrogeological behaviour of the system, to confirm viability of the resource for commercial use. Our research aims to provide a better characterisation of the geothermal resources in the UK and enhance our understanding of the subsurface processes that control the availability of heat in specific settings.

BGS takes part in international projects that aim to develop a better understanding of deep geothermal systems, including:

  • the flow and heat transfer for utilisation of fractured granites in the UK as part of the Geothermal Power Generated from UK Granites (GWatt) project
  • the behaviour of fluids in hot and superhot systems as part of the REFLECT project
  • GEMex, a cooperative project between Europe and Mexico for the development of enhanced and superhot geothermal systems

Our team is contributing to the ‘Hypogene karst: genesis and implications to optimisation of low enthalpy energy resources‘ project, a NERC-funded project led by the University of Manchester that aims to provide a better understanding of the genesis of these systems and the potential implications for circulation of deep fluids and low-enthalpy geothermal systems.

The potential of flooded mines for geothermal energy and for energy storage are key components of BGS research as part of the Geothermal energy from mines and solar geothermal heat (GEMS) project, led by the Durham Energy Institute. In addition to BGS expertise, the project will make use of the research infrastructure available at the UK Geoenergy Observatory in Glasgow, where they will perform field experiments.

Environmental monitoring for geothermal

Geothermal energy construction (including drilling) and operations have the potential to cause environmental changes. Regulatory and permitting requirements vary depending on the type of geothermal technology used; they can include monitoring of surface and groundwater resources (quality; temperature), air quality or ground stability.

BGS research aims to improve the understanding of these potential environmental changes and to provide an evidence base to inform future regulation.

Our team has extensive practical experience of environmental monitoring through construction and operations of the UK Geoenergy Observatories. The monitoring data is openly available as a series of data packs and sensor data streams.

BGS also works with the Coal Authority and environmental regulators across the UK.

Governance policy and regulation

We work with a range of stakeholders including government, regulation, industry, and academia, and provide general expertise and advise on geothermal energy in the UK. This includes geoscientific expertise and knowledge that support decision making and the regulation of geothermal energy.

Research into the geothermal energy sector in Northern Ireland

Together with Arup, the BGS team produced a research report for the Northern Ireland Department for Economy entitled Research into the geothermal energy sector in Northern Ireland. BGS’s role in the report included a comparison of geothermal regulatory frameworks from other European countries and the identification of priority policy mechanisms that could aid the development of the geothermal energy sector in Northern Ireland.

UK deep geothermal energy White Paper

BGS was commissioned by the Department for Net Zero and Energy Security and the North East & Yorkshire Net Zero Hub to develop a UK deep geothermal energy White Paper. The paper aims to provide an evidence-based assessment and ‘case making’ document to help accelerate the development and deployment of deep geothermal energy projects in the UK. The paper was published in July 2023.

Research infrastructures and laboratories

UK Geoenergy Observatories

The UK Geoenergy Observatories are research infrastructures that enable at-scale investigation and innovation in shallow geothermal technologies. They are open to public and private sectors and academic organisations in the UK and internationally.

For more information please contact UKGEOS enquries (

The Glasgow Observatory (UKGEOS Glasgow) comprises boreholes, monitoring equipment and geothermal infrastructure in abandoned, flooded coal-mine workings. It is a research facility for investigating mine water geothermal, thermal storage and environmental change.

The Cheshire Observatory (UKGEOS Cheshire) comprises open loop, closed loop and advanced monitoring boreholes to enable detailed investigation, monitoring and imaging for shallow geothermal energy and energy storage in a sandstone aquifer. Currently in advanced construction, it is due to open in 2024.

The Cardiff Urban Geo-Observatory is a city-wide monitoring network that collects data on groundwater temperatures and water levels, including an instrumented, open-loop ground source heat system. Current studies focus on shallow geothermal heat recovery and storage in a complex geological environment changed by industrialisation and urban growth.


Online maps and tools

GSHP Screening tool

Open-loop GSHP screening tool

The BGS and the Environment Agency have together developed a web-based tool that maps the potential for open-loop ground-source heat pump installations in England and Wales.

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Geothermal energy technologies. BGS © UKRI.

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Geothermal energy is available across the UK in different geological settings. It can be used to produce thermal (and in some places electrical) energy for a wide range of uses.

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What we do

Active and previous research projects.

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