UK Geoenergy Observatories

Carbon capture and storage
Coal Bed Methane
Renewable Energy
Shale Gas

The UK Geoenergy Observatories project was formerly known as the Energy Security and Innovation Observing System for the Subsurface (ESIOS).

Responsible development of underground energy technologies

The UK Geoenergy Observatories project will establish new centres for world-leading research into the subsurface environment. The knowledge they generate will contribute to the responsible development of new energy technologies both in the UK and internationally.

The project, commissioned by the BGS's parent body the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), follows the Government's 2014 announcement that it would allocate £31 million to create world-class, subsurface energy-research test centres.

The BGS is delivering the research infrastructure and will operate the facilities over their 15-year lifetime.

The BGS has worked with the wider geoscience community to identify two preferred geological locations. The first research field site will be in the Thornton area (Cheshire) and will focus on shale gas and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The second research field site will be in Scotland and will focus on geothermal energy.

The research field sites will allow independent, rigorous and replicable observations of subsurface processes. The UK Geoenergy Observatories will stimulate research on underground energy technologies that will answer vital questions about how they affect the environment through:

  • independent monitoring and observing — answering questions on how subsurface energy technologies interact with the environment
  • high-quality, scientific evidence — answering questions on new and established energy supply and storage technology, increasing efficiency and environmental sustainability

Research opportunities using the UK Geoenergy Observatories

Researchers with an interest in using the UK Geoenergy Observatories facilities must first contact to discuss the opportunities and capabilities that the facility offers, and ensure that projects are suitable for the sites. Once the facilities are operational, they will operate in the same way as NERC's other Services and Facilities. UK Geoenergy Observatories facilities will be available for research, innovation and training activities. Other funding sources (other than UKRI) are welcome including industry-led research. Anyone with an idea for research conducted using UK Geoenergy Observatories facilities is encouraged to use the NERC ideas process for highlight topics and strategic programme areas, or through joint strategic response or via any other UKRI funding routes, e.g.NERC discovery science grants.

NERC and BGS science strategies

UK Geoenergy Observatories is a fundamental part of delivering the NERC and BGS science strategies.

NERC's strategy, The Business of the Environment, identified the importance of increasing our understanding of subsurface processes so that we can use natural resources sustainably. UK Geoenergy Observatories will form a part of NERC's long-term strategic approach to integrated environmental observation and data science. It will help drive innovation and growth by enabling scientists to work with industry and government to improve understanding of the environment.

The BGS's 2014 strategy, Gateway to the Earth: science for the next decade, identified the need to harness new technology to instrument the Earth so that we understand how geological processes act in real time. The BGS will couple this new understanding to existing research capability to rise to challenges across the world. We will remain a trusted, independent voice to help society:

  • use its natural resources responsibly
  • manage environmental change
  • be resilient to environmental hazards

The science will feed into energy sectors such as geothermal; CCS; compressed air energy storage; natural gas storage; underground gasification, and shale gas. It will also inform understanding of other areas including groundwater flooding; landslides; urban geological processes; Quaternary processes; geomicrobiology, and soils.

UK Geoenergy Observatories will improve our ability to observe and monitor subsurface activities as well as to maximise their efficiency and reduce their environmental impact. It will contribute to developing and investigating new energy and bringing it to market.

Science plan

To enable UK Geoenergy Observatories to meet the current and future needs of the scientific user community, a science plan (pdf, 235KB) was developed through a consultation process (originally for ESIOS).

Project timeline

Following BEIS approval of the business case, UK Geoenergy Observatories began in spring 2017.

Preferred UK Geoenergy Observatories sites

Science Advisory Group (SAG)

The SAG was established to help develop the science plan. It is advising on the location of the preferred sites and on the composition of the borehole arrays.

Science Advisory Group membership

Prof Zoe Shipton (Chair)
Strathclyde University
Dr Grant Allen
University of Manchester
Dr José Miguel Bermúdez Menéndez
Department for Business,
Energy & Industrial Strategy
Prof Mike Bickle
University of Cambridge
Dr Andy Croxford
Environment Agency
Prof Richard Davies
Newcastle University
Dr Chris Green
Dr Alwyn Hart
Environment Agency
Prof Mike Kendall
University of Bristol
Prof Ally Lewis
University of York
Prof Jonathan Lloyd
University of Manchester
Prof David Manning
Newcastle University
Prof Mike Stephenson
British Geological Survey
Prof John Tellam
University of Birmingham
Prof John Underhill
Heriot-Watt University
Professor Jim Watson
University of Sussex
Dr Michael John Williams

Ms Rachel Leader
NERC Programme Manager, Research


For more information, please use the UK Geoenergy Observatories contact form.