British Geological Survey launches ‘living laboratory’

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The scientific research organisation has installed a new low-carbon heating system and will monitor benefits in real-time, producing significant data for others to learn from.

British Geological Survey launches ‘living laboratory’

A geothermal heat pump has been installed at the headquarters of the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire. Costing £1.7million, the project has been majority funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) and the UK Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. 

The technology comprises an array of 28 boreholes drilled to a depth of 225metres, and will replace old gas boilers. Once fully operational, the system will heat two buildings at the site, where 400 people work, cutting carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by around 30 tonnes per year, helping bring down the organisation’s heating bill and greenhouse gas footprint. This is part of a wider effort to bring down emissions, with 1000 solar panels already fitted above the BGS parking area in 2022.

A ‘living laboratory’ is also factored into the plans, with state-of-the-art sensors installed within heat extraction boreholes and buildings, providing data in real time to help improve understandings of ground source heat systems, and decarbonisation. Rock samples will also be taken to increase knowledge of water and heat flow underground, with the local geology comparable to a large proportion of the UK, meaning lessons learned here can be applied to other parts of the country. 

‘Geothermal energy is heat that naturally occurs under the ground and is available 24/7 across the UK. This project will demonstrate the deployment of ground-source heat pump technology to decarbonise existing buildings across the public sector estate,’ said David Boon, a BGS Senior Engineering and Geothermal Geologist.

‘This exciting project gives us the opportunity to blend our observation of the subsurface with leading low-carbon heating,’ said Daniel Crow, head of BGS estates and facilities. ‘The disruption to BGS staff will be kept to a minimum, with short closures of a couple of buildings to allow for the installation of heat emitters. The drilling and heat pump installation is due to last around three months. The borehole installation should not impact on Keyworth site operations due to the careful planning and specification involved in the project.’

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Image: British Geological Survey

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