abandoned underground mine for mining

Underground observatory opens in Glasgow to further subsurface research

Image credit: Dreamstime

The first of two new underground laboratories, which should give scientists an unprecedented look at the subsurface, has opened near Glasgow.

The team behind the UK Geoenergy Observatory believe it will help contribute to the UK’s ambition to decarbonise its energy supply and achieve net zero by 2050.

The facility comprises 12 boreholes, which are 16-199m deep and are fitted with 319 state-of-the-art sensors.

Researchers can use it to closely study the subsurface and work on projects such as using the heat emanating from abandoned mines as a form of renewable energy to warm water for homes and industry.

Central Scotland, northern England and south Wales all have flooded and abandoned mines that could be tapped to supply local communities or industry with heat.

A second observatory is planned for a site in Cheshire.

Together, the observatories represent a £31m investment by the UK government through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Over the next 15 years, the network of boreholes will also monitor any changes in the properties of the environment below the surface and help close the knowledge gap we have on mine water heat energy and heat storage.

While today is the official opening, the Glasgow Observatory has been supplying scientists with open access data since drilling began in 2018.

Dr Karen Hanghøj, director of the British Geological Survey, said: “The Glasgow Observatory is the first of our UK observatories that will create a high-resolution understanding of the underground system, providing a breakthrough in our knowledge of what lies beneath us.

“Heat from mine water is one form of geothermal energy and it has great potential to help the UK decarbonise its heat supply and meet net-zero targets.

“This £31m investment is part of the UK’s national capability for world-class science and will give the government, industry and regulators the knowledge required to understand how our underground might be used to power the future.”

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, executive chair of the Natural Environment Research Council said: “It makes sense that the UK’s first geoenergy observatory is in Glasgow, given Scotland’s geology is world famous.

“With the government’s target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, emerging low-carbon technologies may offer the best solutions to shaping future energy policy.”

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