Cheshire gives UK Geoenergy Observatory the green light

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Cheshire West and Chester Council councillors have given the go-ahead for a new UK Geoenergy Observatory at Ince Marshes in the north of the county

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWACC) councillors unanimously approved the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) planning application to site a UK Geoenergy Observatory.

The decision will see some 50 boreholes drilled down to 1,200 m around a 12 km2 area, enabling scientists to gain the clearest picture yet of the underground environment. The boreholes will be installed with some £2.5m worth of scientific sensors, which will observe in unprecedented detail how the underground system works. The sensors will generate millions of terabytes of data on the chemical, physical and biological properties of the rocks over a 15-year period, providing the nation with the knowledge it needs to unlock new clean, green, low-carbon energy technologies.

The UK’s main funder in environmental science, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), has commissioned the £31m UK Geoenergy Observatories to keep the UK at the cutting edge of geoscience and energy innovation and to provide the important knowledge needed to move the UK towards a low-carbon economy.

Prof Mike Stephenson, chief scientist at the BGS, commented: “More and more of the solutions to decarbonising our energy supply will need to come from beneath our feet. Ensuring we take forward these solutions in a sustainable way means understanding more about the system. Second by second, minute by minute, day by day, we’ll be measuring the pulse of the Earth in a way that the scientific community simply hasn’t been able to do until now.

“The UK Geoenergy Observatory in Cheshire will be a world first in its ability to observe the underground environment so closely and consistently. What we learn in Cheshire should provide a breakthrough in our understanding of how the whole underground system works.”

The UK Geoenergy Observatory at Ince Marshes will make Cheshire home to the best-characterised rock mass in the world, providing a world-class environmental baseline for the geological environment.

The Cheshire site will be one of two observatories in the UK. The other is being drilled in Glasgow and comprises 12 boreholes over a 4 km2 area.

NERC executive chair, Prof Duncan Wingham, said: “NERC’s investments will equip the UK with a unique capability to investigate geological processes at depth. It will enable world-leading research, which will ensure that the best possible geological evidence is available to underpin decisions and regulatory controls around the management of the environment and its natural resources, as government, industry, regulators and academia look at how the underground might be used to power the future.”

The UK Geoenergy Observatories will help to ensure that the UK continues to lead the world in research, innovation, regulation and engineering in geoscience.

David Grove, director at technical advisor Ramboll, which is project managing the planning, engineering and construction of the facility, added: “Our Chester team has been working to bring this important investment to the Cheshire Science Corridor for the last three years.

“Investment in the science corridor is vital for the continuation of Cheshire and the north-west’s world-class standing and capability in science and engineering.”

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