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Signage which reads 'Welcome to Thornton Science Park'

The application is for 21 boreholes up to 100m deep and associated infrastructure above ground. 

The team hopes the application will be approved by Chester West and Cheshire Council and that the Cheshire Observatory will complete the total investment of £31 million for the UK Geoenergy Observatories. Construction will be complete in 2023. 

Planning permission was originally granted for the Cheshire Observatory to be sited at Ince Marshes. However, ground investigation work revealed challenging subsurface conditions that would have led to drilling difficulties and significant cost increases, including soft ground to a greater depth than originally anticipated, deeper bedrock than expected and a rest water level in the bedrock aquifer above ground level. 

Dr Rachel Dearden, Project Manager at the British Geological Survey for the UK Geoenergy Observatories said: “The Cheshire Observatory will be a world-class science and research facility for science and innovators working in subsurface energy storage. 

“The site at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park is a suitable site for geothermal research because the sandstone bedrock of interest is located close to the ground surface. 

“Additionally, the region is already an important hub for sustainable energy research, which opens the door to collaboration and partnerships with researchers and industry. 

The Cheshire Observatory will provide real-time insight into how the subsurface responds to energy transfer and storage. Scientists from all over the world will be able to use its data, which will be open to everyone via its online portal. 

It is one of two new observatories. The other, in Glasgow, is already operational and providing data for scientists. 

Dr Dearden continued: “The Cheshire Observatory will provide researchers with at-scale test facilities that can be used to optimise the design and operation of subsurface energy storage systems. These systems are an important and growing component of the UK’s heating and cooling demand.” 

“The Glasgow Observatory, which is equipped to investigate thermal storage in former mine workings, is already delivering these benefits for researchers and partners across the UK.

Key features 

  • 21 boreholes will be drilled into the Sherwood sandstone aquifer to a depth of up to 100m. This is so the relationship between thermal perturbation and 3D groundwater flow regime, chemistry and microbiology can be investigated. 
  • Boreholes will be equipped with advanced fibre optic (DTS and iDAS) and resistance tomography monitoring technologies so that the system temperature and physical properties can be monitored in real time. 
  • The array will include boreholes that can be used to circulate heated and cooled fluids so that the effect of thermal energy storage and extraction can be investigated. 
  • A wide variety of open-access data will be generated during the construction and operation of the site. 

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