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Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser visits Glasgow underground observatory

The Glasgow Observatory provides unprecedented access to the subsurface and will fill in the knowledge gaps around geothermal energy. 

12/11/2021 By BGS Press
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser visits the Glasgow Observatory
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser meets members of the UK Geoenergy Observatories research team. BGS © UKRI

Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, chief executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), visited the Glasgow geoenergy observatory this week. 

The Glasgow Observatory provides scientists and researchers with unprecedented access to the subsurface and will fill in the knowledge gaps around geothermal energy. The site comprises 12 boreholes, which range from 16–199 m deep and are fitted with hundreds of state-of-the-art sensors. 

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Glasgow, the host of COP26, is also home to part of the UK Geoenergy Observatories project.

The 12 boreholes here are generating data that will help scientists around the world better understand geothermal energy. This will play a key role in meeting our net zero targets by decarbonising our energy supply.

Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, chief executive, UKRI.

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Take a virtual tour of the Glasgow Observatory. BGS © UKRI.

Dame Ottoline was given a tour of the site by BGS’s Dr Tracy Shimmield and was shown a demonstration of how water samples are collected from the boreholes. 

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The Glasgow Observatory is already producing valuable data. We know the temperature of the water below the surface and that the mine workings are connected.

This will help shine light on whether the towns and cities around the world that sit on top of old mine workings could use that resource to power their homes and businesses.

Dr Tracy Shimmield, British Geological Survey.

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While a handful of small-scale geothermal energy projects have been developed in the UK to date, wider adoption has lagged.

To provide sustainable and economically viable geothermal energy, we need fundamental information on how the chemical, physical, water and microbiological subsurface changes when we extract or store heat. This data is needed to optimise extraction of heat and inform regulators. We also need to be able to test and demonstrate new technologies.

The UK Geoenergy Observatories will provide us with infrastructure to monitor and analyse subsurface processes and test technologies.

Prof Zoe Shipton, chair of the UK Geoenergy Observatory’s science advisory group

The UK Geoenergy Observatories in Glasgow and Cheshire represent a £31 million investment by the UK Government through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They were commissioned by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and are delivered by BGS, which runs the sites and manages the data.

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