OR/19/032 Project overview

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Monaghan, A A, Starcher, V, Dochartaigh, B Ó, Shorter, K, and Burkin, J. 2019. UK Geoenergy Observatories: Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site - Science infrastructure Version 2. UKGEOS Programme. British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/19/032.


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

The project follows the Government’s 2014 announcement that it would allocate £31 million to create world-class, subsurface energy-research test centres. The BGS is responsible for delivering the research infrastructure and will operate the facilities on behalf of the research community over their 15-year lifetime.

The Science Plan, developed through a consultation process, ensures that UKGEOS provides for the current and future needs of the scientific user community. The research field sites will allow independent, rigorous and replicable observations of subsurface processes and stimulate research on underground energy technologies that will answer vital questions about how they affect the environment.

The BGS worked with the wider geoscience community to identify the Clyde Gateway area in Glasgow and Rutherglen as the preferred site for the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site (GGERFS; Figure 1). The focus of the research infrastructure at this site is very low enthalpy mine water geothermal and energy storage in an urban area with a complex prior land use. The area is typical of many towns and cities above abandoned coal mine workings.

The other research field site, described in a separate document (Kingdon et al., 2018[1]), will be in the Thornton area (Cheshire; subject to planning permission) and will focus on a range of subsurface energy technologies.

Figure 1    View over the Cuningar Loop, looking east towards Glasgow city centre. Borehole locations (numbered) are indicated by green and purple arrows. Photo reproduced with permission of Clyde Gateway URC.

Location and science potential[edit]

The Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site is located in the Clyde Gateway regeneration area of eastern Glasgow (Glasgow City Council) and Rutherglen (South Lanarkshire Council; Figure 2). Chosen for its science potential, this location has many benefits for geoscientists from both research and commercial backgrounds.

Figure 2    Summary map of proposed borehole locations. Glasgow City Council area is to the north of the River Clyde and South Lanarkshire Council area is to the south. The National Grid and other Ordnance Survey data © Crown Copyright and database rights 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence No. 100021290 EUL.

Man-made deposits (made or artificial ground) As a result of the area’s industrial past, there is widespread made (artificial) ground cover reaching substantial thicknesses in places (>10 m). A range of compositions are proved from coal mine waste to housing demolition rubble, with science challenges around the feasibility of low-temperature geothermal energy in a post-industrial urban area.

Superficial deposits — Near the surface is a complex sequence of variably permeable Quaternary sediments that are representative of glacial and post-glacial sediments across northern parts of the UK. They provide opportunities for research relating to anthropogenic influences, groundwater flow and transport of substances into the subsurface.

Mined Coal Measures — The Scottish Coal Measures Group is characterised by coal-bearing fluvio-deltaic sedimentary rocks in cyclical sequences of mudstone, siltstone, seatearth (rootlet-bearing paleosol), sandstone and coal. Up to seven coal mine workings to depths of a few hundred metres are recorded beneath the area, providing a ‘typical’ low enthalpy geothermal mine water resource to be characterised.

Structural and basin complexity — The Clyde Gateway area has a typical level of faulted and gently-folded structural complexity for coalfields in Central Scotland (Figure 3, Figure 6). The faulted character is important in providing opportunities to study fault transmissivity and/or sealing in the mined and unmined bedrock.

Figure 3    Image of the 7 x 4 km model geological model for the research site, looking west, model to depth of c. 300 m. The Scottish Coal Measures Group is represented in the black to orange colours. Superficial and artificial deposits are shown to scale in blue, green, red, pink and brown (see Table 1), with UKGEOS borehole locations shown at the yellow symbols.

Extensive existing data and interpretations — The area is characterised from existing geological data, including abundant borehole datasets (some with hydrogeological and engineering data), mine abandonment plans that include fault information, and an existing set of regional geochemical soil and stream sediment analyses. Legacy 2D seismic data, hydrocarbon well data and bedrock hydrogeology/hydrogeochemistry/temperature data are available from similar Carboniferous sequences across Central Scotland. Existing geological and hydrogeological models at a range of scales form a framework that can be built on over the next 20 years as further data are generated.

Scope of the facility[edit]

Phase 1 of the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site is proposed to cover five sites, four in the Cuningar Loop area (Sites 01, 02, 03, 05; Figures 2, Figure 9) and one in the Dalmarnock area (Site 10; Figures 2, Figure 11). Phase 1 characterisation and monitoring boreholes will establish the baseline, provide data to inform risks and enable a Phase 2 geothermal and science infrastructure to be designed and installed.

The Phase 1 boreholes comprise 6 mine water, 5 environmental baseline and a seismic monitoring borehole of between 9 and 199 m drilled length. These boreholes will be fitted with sensors that monitor groundwater levels and temperature, dynamic geoelectrical properties and seismicity within the subsurface. Additional sensors at the ground surface will monitor gas and ground motion, plus there will be sampling and analysis of groundwater, surface water and soil geochemistry. Open access data and information will be provided online allowing wide public observation of Glasgow’s subsurface.

The Phase 1 boreholes will yield a limited amount of rock core and cuttings samples. This will be made available to the research community for future research after it has been geologically described, and the core will be scanned with state-of-the-art core scanners to characterise its physical and geochemical properties (Appendix A - Working at UKGEOS).

The Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site will be open to researchers for field experiments from 2020. Researchers will have access to the borehole arrays and the associated instrumentation, as well as having the opportunity to deploy their own equipment.

To facilitate research at the field site, the British Geological Survey will provide the onsite compounds and at BGS Keyworth facilities will be provided for core viewing and sampling, core analysis (physical and geochemical) and core scanning. A state of the art UKGEOS online portal will stream data from the site and also provide a repository for all data and science understanding generated at the site.


  1. KINGDON, A, DEARDEN, R A AND FELLGETT, M W., 2018. UK Geoenergy Observatories, Cheshire Energy Research Field Site, Science Infrastructure, British Geological Survey Open Report, UK Geoenergy Observatories Programme, OR/18/05.