Academic Year 2022-2023
Institution Queen's University, Belfast


School: School of Natural and Built Environment

Project: The impact of subsurface heterogeneity on the performance of Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) systems

Supervisors: Dr Ulrich OfterdingerDr Jean-Christophe Comte

Undergraduate Education: Applied Geophysics, Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria

Postgraduate Education: Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree: Groundwater and Global Change- Impacts and Adaptation (GroundwatCH), with the following specialisations: MSc, Environmental Engineering at Instituto Superior Tecnico, Portugal; MSc, Water Science and Engineering at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Netherlands; MSc, Hydro Science and Engineering at Technische Universitat Dresden, Germany

Research: Global energy needs are steadily rising with a predicted increase of 45% within the next 15 years. Geothermal energy present one of the potential key pillars to address this need. One of the commonly applied designs for geothermal installations are open loop systems consisting of abstraction and re-injection wells installed in the aquifer system to extract heat from or to inject/store heat into the aquifer. A particular design of open loop geothermal installations support Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) systems which allow the seasonal storage of waste heat in the subsurface for subsequent use to meet heating demands. The efficiency of the system relies on the productivity of the well installations as well as suitable aquifer properties (incl. aquifer permeability & porosity and thermal properties). The project will investigate the impact of subsurface/geological heterogeneity on the performance of ATES installations using the Triassic Sherwood Sandstone Aquifer in Belfast as a case study.

The study will combine the baseline characterisation of the aquifer system by completing a series of active borehole geophysical measurements, hydraulic borehole tests, with the long-term monitoring of experimental thermal injection tests using fibre optic distributed temperature sensing. Collected monitoring data will be integrated into numerical heat transport models to evaluate field-scale subsurface properties to better understand the impact of aquifer heterogeneity on system performance.