BGS news

UK set for groundbreaking underground observatory in Cheshire

The UK Geoenergy Observatories project will deliver a second underground observatory for the UK after it was granted planning permission on Wednesday 9 February.

09/02/2022 By BGS Press
UK Geoenergy Observatories at Thornton Science Park
Members of the team on location at Thornton Science Park. Source: BGS © UKRI

The Cheshire Observatory in the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park was approved by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

This means the £31 million project will be delivered in full by 2024. The Glasgow Observatory is already operational and providing open data for scientists and researchers.

Together, the Geoenergy Observatories will provide scientists with at- scale test facilities that can be used to optimise and de-risk a range of subsurface energy technologies. They will increase the UK’s research and innovation in low-carbon energy supply and storage

Subsurface energy storage

The Cheshire Observatory will comprise a network of 21 boreholes up to 100m deep. It will provide world-class research facilities for geoenergy storage scientists and innovators.

The boreholes will be equipped with a range of subsurface technologies including borehole heat exchangers for heating and cooling of the subsurface, advanced sensors for 3D imaging of subsurface processes in real-time, and equipment for multilevel groundwater monitoring and hydraulic control.

Data will be free and open to the public, public bodies, researchers and industry.

Construction will begin in summer 2022

Now that planning permission has been granted, construction is expected to start in summer 2022.

The project team has issued a tender for the principal contractor to build the Cheshire site.

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If the UK is to meet its net zero targets, we need to balance renewable energy supply and demand and reduce our dependency on gas for heating.

The Cheshire Observatory will be a place where developers of geoenergy supply and storage technologies can work together to create high performance systems and understand how these interact with the subsurface environment.

It will complement the Glasgow Observatory, which is already providing important insights into how thermal energy in flooded former coal mine workings can be used for the heating of buildings.

This world-class facility will be open to users globally and will play a key role in our path towards a net zero energy future.

Dr Mike Spence, science director of the UK Geoenergy Observatories.


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Media contact: Sarah McDaid ( 07866789688).

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