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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Postgraduate Courses (School of GeoSciences)

Postgraduate Course: Future GeoEnergy Resources (PGGE11261)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course introduces the technical background and covers the environmental issues associated with the responsible utilisation of Future GeoEnergy resources.

Future GeoEnergy resources encompass the broad range of energy technologies and sources that interact with the geological subsurface. This includes both established energy technologies such as conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon extraction, the production of geothermal energy, water resources and developing areas such as energy storage (via compressed air or hydrogen), nuclear waste storage and the influence of the deep biosphere.

The geological subsurface is used as both a source of fluids (water, oil, gas); a sink (CO2; waste
water; nuclear waste) and a store (compressed air; hydrogen; natural gas). All such industrial operations risk either damaging nearby subsurface resources, or creating pollution at the Earth¿s surface, and must be conducted in a manner which minimises these risks.
Course description Semester 1:
Week 6
Introduction to course and GeoEnergy Research Talks Dr Stuart Gilfillan
A brief introduction to the aims of the course and its assessment breakdown will be provided.
This will also outline the research talks where students will select a project to prepare an
oral presentation on, to be given in Week 4 of Semester 2, chosen from operating GeoEnergy
sites from around the world.

Introduction to GeoEnergy Resources Prof Stuart Haszeldine
Overview lecture focusing on the Future GeoEnergy resources field and the need for rapid
decarbonisation of the energy sector covering the developments in unconventional gas,
geothermal resources and the need for energy, hydrogen and radwaste storage.
The following practical exercise will also be undertaken:

How will the UK meet its energy needs in the future? Prof Stuart Haszeldine
Interactive hands-on experience of designing an energy system for the UK, which mixes
fossil, sustainable, low carbon, and renewable energy sources to achieve 80% carbon
reduction from 1990 values by 2050, at a feasible cost. This will use the established DECC
2050 calculator from UK government, which is now part of the planning systems for many
governments worldwide.

Week 7
Geomechanics & Experimental Simulation of the Subsurface Dr Mike Chandler
Overview lecture covering the geomechanical principles and how these control subsurface
injection and production practices.

Practical introduction to how subsurface conditions can be replicated in the laboratory and
a tour of the GREAT (Geo-Reservoir Experimental Analogue Technology) Cell - a mixed type
polyaxial cell capable of creating principal stresses from multiple directions, and even
irregular distributions of stress without the need to re-position the sample.

Week 8
Unconventional Hydrocarbons Dr Stuart Gilfillan
Detailed guide to the history, hydrocarbon products and environmental issues surrounding
unconventional hydrocarbon extraction and the associated hydraulic fracturing process. This
will include discussion on the facts surrounding wastewater injection, induced seismicity,
groundwater contamination and air pollution associated with unconventional hydrocarbon

Interactive practical exercise on whether Scotland should allow exploration for
unconventional hydrocarbons? As a class we will review six of the evidence gathering reports
commissioned by the Scottish Government as part of their consultation on the exploration
for unconventional hydrocarbons in Scotland.

Week 9
Geothermal Resources Dr Sam Graham
Overview of low and high enthalpy geothermal resources, including minewater heat, district
heating and their applications, and volcanic, hot and dry rock and deep saline formations
and examples of the use of each in a global context.

This session will include a practical exercise on the potential of using mineworkings as a heat
battery for cooling of the Universities supercomputer array at Easter Bush.

Week 10
Water Resources Dr. Ian Molnar
An overview of the energy supplied by the global hydropower sector, the environmental
issues surrounding it, and the energy demands of the future posed by ensuring clean drinking
water supplies are available to the increasing global population.

Mineral Resources for a Zero-Carbon future Dr. Steve Hollis
The increased adoption of green energy technologies required for a low-carbon future is
expected to lead to significant growth in demand for a wide range of minerals and metals,
such as aluminium, copper, lead, lithium, manganese, nickel, silver, steel, and zinc and rare
earth minerals. This session will describe the implications of this rise in demand for the
mineral industry and outline the environmental challenges associated with increasing
extraction of these resources.

Semester 2:

Week 1
Nuclear Power Prof. Stuart Haszeldine
This session will outline the principles of nuclear energy generation, the history of nuclear
power development, the obstacles which push against that today and the incentives which
favour nuclear. This will also explain the fit of nuclear into a national energy system for
baseload electricity or hydrogen production, along with the geological resources needed to
discover extract and purify fuel, and finally the geological resources and criteria needed to
dispose of waste in diverse geologies.

A practical session investigating how the current proposition to develop an underground
offshore coal mine 10 km north of Sellafield might impact on proposals for radioactive waste
storage in excavated offshore tunnels.

Week 2
Shale Geology and Seal Properties Dr. Mark Wilkinson
This session will cover the formation and geology of shales and how this affects their
properties to act as seals to fluids in the subsurface. This will include the properties that
control seal quality and how to assess seal integrity, porosity and permeability.

The lecture components will be complemented with a practical introduction to shale
characterisation by X-ray diffraction, covering how the shale depositional parameters can be
resolved experimentally from geochemical proxies.

Week 3
Energy Storage Dr. Katriona Edlmann and Dr. Mark Wilkinson
Overview lecture of the different methods of energy storage utilising the subsurface
(compressed air, hydrogen, gas, heat) and associated management issues. This session will
also involve a tour of the Applied Geoscience Laboratory and a practical overview of the
experimental means to investigate issues related to subsurface energy storage technologies.

Week 4
GeoEnergy Research Talks Dr. Stuart Gilfillan
Oral presentations on the selected currently operating GeoEnergy sites. Individual feedback
will be provided to each student following the talks via email.

Week 5
Implications of the Deep Biosphere for GeoEnergy Resources Dr. Sean McMahon
Introduction to the deep biosphere and how it affects GeoEnergy Resources. This session will
also provide a practical exercise on the control of reservoir microbial sulphide production
using chemical treatment of injection water: simulation vs. reality
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Geology for GeoEnergy (PGGE11293)
Students MUST have passed:
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students must have studied basic geology to the satisfaction of the Course Organiser
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework: 100 %
Students will be required to submit the following coursework items to constitute the assessed component of this course:

A written 6 page report (including figures and tables, but excluding references which are not included in the page limit) report on a chosen Future GeoEnergy Technology to be submitted digitally for assessment week 11 of Semester 1.

An A0 size digital poster on a selected operating GeoEnergy site (excluding CCS sites as these are covered in Carbon Storage and Monitoring course). This is expected to be the same site as that presented orally in week 4 of Semester 2, in order for the formative feedback on the presentations to be acted upon in poster preparation.
Feedback Feedback is a key component of your learning experience, and something that is given a high priority in the Future GeoEnergy course. Students will have the opportunity to receive feedback in the following instances:
- Personal 1-to-1 feedback during the practical sessions, as students progress on the exercises during the course (once a week). Teaching staff will provide feedback.
- Individual feedback will be provided on each students individual presentations on a chosen relevant GeoEnergy project scheduled to be given during the course. This will include recommendations as to how you can improve your presentations in the future.
Students are expected to build on this feedback to progress and produce work of a high standard. Course team members are happy to give individual feedback to students who ask.
Examples of feedback can be found here:
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. A broad, integrated knowledge of the range of future GeoEnergy Resources and the geological constraints associated with their use
  2. A critical understanding of the geomechanical controls on the subsurface injection of fluids
  3. Knowledge of the properties of fine grained rocks and their ability to act as geological seals
  4. An insight into the experimental approachs used to understand subsurface processes relevant to utilisation of GeoEnergy Resources
  5. Familiarity with common tools used to monitor GeoEnergy Resources
Reading List
Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, 2009, by MacKay, DJC. Free to download here:
Energy Systems and Sustainability: Power for a Sustainable Future Paperback, 2011, by
Everett, Boyle & Peake
Li et al., 2015 - A review on hydraulic fracturing of unconventional reservoir, by, Petroleum
(journal) v. 1, p.8 - 15.
Amid et al. 2016 - Seasonal storage of hydrogen in a depleted natural gas reservoir, Journal
of Hydrogen Energy, 41, 5549:5558
Luo et al., 2014 - Overview of current development in compressed air energy storage
technology, by, Energy Procedia, v. 62, p. 603 611.
World Bank 2017 - The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future ¿ free
to download here:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Critical thinking- some subsurface technologies are controversial; all require expert knowledge to assess independently.
Presentation and data interpretation skills will also be gained from the course.
Additional Class Delivery Information All classes will be delivered in person.
KeywordsEarth Resources,GeoEnergy,Geothermal energy,Energy Storage
Course organiserDr Stuart Gilfillan
Tel: (0131 6)51 3462
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Jones
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