Crewe Deep Geothermal

Smart, Sustainable Growth

Crewe Deep Geothermal Prospectus – PDF

Geothermal energy is a clean, renewable energy source utilised around Europe for both electricity and heat. We aim to exploit the significant geothermal resource deep within the Cheshire Basin to power the smart, sustainable and clean growth of Crewe, linked to the development of the HS2 hub.

Working with partners in industry and academia, the Skills and Growth Company have been assisting Cheshire East Council to exploit this resource – contributing to local energy policy, Local Enterprise Partnership’s  emerging Energy Strategy and aspirations for south Cheshire linked to HS2 and Constellation, and national carbon targets.

As part of the Ambition for All Sustainable Communities Strategy (2010-2025), the Council put forward a vision of including a step change in local production of energy from renewable sources, and has begun to explore routes that could be taken in delivering innovative and stable renewable energy within the Borough. In July 2014 the Council’s Cabinet made the decision to pursue deep geothermal with full, cross-party support. The document detailing this decision can be found on the Modern.Gov website.

In January 2015 the Council’s Energy Framework (PDF, 3.3MB) identified Geothermal energy as a significant opportunity to help deliver affordable, sustainable and decentralised energy sources.

Extensive research and modelling of this resource has demonstrated that geothermal energy could power an extensive heat network across Crewe (the start of which is under development within the town centre). To unlock the commercial potential of this resource, an exploratory well is required to fully understand the temperature and flow rate at depth – this needs to happen soon so that the future development of heat networks locally can be optimised for the renewable resource, and we are currently seeking public funding to make this happen.

The Opportunity.

The Cheshire Basin is one of four sedimentary Permo-Triassic basins in the UK which have the potential for deep geothermal, and has major advantages over other areas. The Cheshire Basin reaches depths of up to 4.5 km and temperatures reaching 100 °C, giving the potential to produce a high quantity of energy.

The scheme will target heat trapped in water in deep, sedimentary aquifers. Hot, saline brines can be utilised for heat networks via either a single, doublet or multi-well strategy. It is estimated that 75 exajoules (EJ) of energy is untapped in the basin, with 23 % of this recoverable at heat (equivalent to 2,800 million barrels of oil).

Of the available aquifers in the Cheshire Basin, the Collyhurst formation (Figure 1 – ‘Permian strata’) is expected to yield the most geothermal potential due to favourable thermal and hydro-physical properties. This formation is an aeolian-to-fluvial sandstone (deposited by wind or rivers), which in outcrop studies has high hydraulic conductivities (ability of water to flow through the rock of 1 metre/day), and high production rates of 20 – 30 litres/second. These properties, combined with high temperatures at depths of 3.5 – 4.5 km (60 – 100 °C), indicate that the Collyhurst formation is the ideal aquifer to meet the long term energy demands of the Crewe area (Figure 2 – 3).

Figure 1. Cross section of the Cheshire Basin, showing the location of Crewe. Hirst et al., (2015).

Figure 2. Heat maps at the base of the Permian sandstones.  Temperature is indicative of where the higher concentration of resource is, with higher temperatures centring the Crewe area. Image taken from BGS, (2010) and Regeneris, (2016).

Figure 3. Energy maps for the Permian sandstones.  Higher concentration of energy located in the Crewe area. Image taken from BGS, (2010) .

The Benefits.

Growth locally and nationally.

Independent research has reviewed the national and local economic benefits. (Regeneris, 2016). Locally, the single scheme could provide 76GWh powering the equivalent of 6,740 homes and reducing 7-8,000 tonnes of CO2. The overall scheme could support 200 FTE’s and £10m GVA in construction, and annual operational and maintenance benefits of 16 FTE’s and £0.9m GVA. This benefit could be tripled on the back of growth expected through HS2.
There are also wider socio-economic benefits which could impact positively on local supply chains, workforce development, energy affordability, and carbon reduction.

Figure 4. Key economic benefits of geothermal locally and nationally. Regeneris, (2016).

Supporting Crewe HS2 Masterplan and Constellation.

The scheme will support the ambitions for Crewe and surrounding area as part of the development of the HS2 hub, being part of the energy infrastructure to deliver the investment required to maximise the transformative economic benefits locally and for the Northern Powerhouse.

The scheme will deliver long term, resilient and sustainable heat to support the expected 40,000 new jobs over the next 30 years, and 350,000sq metres of new commercial floor space and an additional 7,000 homes by 2043, including opportunities to connect directly to the HS2 hub

Sustainable heat and affordability.

Deep geothermal projects require the correct geological conditions to be successful, but also need heat loads in close proximity to drilling. Crewe is in a unique situation of having an existing concentration of heat loads around the town centre and civic quarter, and potential for more linked to HS2 – which happen to be over the hottest part of the Basin.

The deep geothermal will need a heat network to feed into, and we are already at detailed design stage for Crewe Town Centre, with funding from the European Investment Bank and BEIS. We have also scoped the feasibility for a wider deep geothermal district heating project across Crewe highlighting that there is potential heat demand of 76 GWh/a, which could be met by the development of a geothermal heat network. The anticipated delivery cost of geothermal energy is expected to be ~1p/KWh, significantly lower than for gas (~3p/KWh) and electricity / oil (~10p/KWh).

Further understanding the deep geothermal resource through an exploratory well is critical to ensuring this and future phases of the Crewe scheme – linked to the HS2 masterplan and the growth areas around the Hub station and Leighton – are designed with geothermal at their heart.

Innovation with a global opportunity.

The Crewe scheme will maximise the innovative potential of the geothermal resource which will provide for opportunities in a growing and large global market. It aims to promote innovative geothermal approaches through;

  • Utilising smart technology both in the wellbore and heat network – usually low-enthalpy, hydrothermal resources produce heat via a doublet (two well) scheme which is a proven extraction method. The proposed scheme here however, is investigating the potential of a smart single well scheme to extract heat from deep aquifers (3 – 4 km) and reject it into shallow aquifers (>1 km).
  • The application of cost-effective slim-hole technology for exploration, a technology which could make a dramatic impact on the cost and risk of exploitation.
  • The use in low temperature heat networks which are common in Scandinavia, and have significant potential in the UK especially for lower heat density areas.

The scheme also has the potential to add value to the knowledge being gained through the two planned British Geological Survey geoenergy observatories (ESIOS) at Thornton in the Cheshire Basin and Glasgow , which will investigate underground energy potential including geothermal energy. This scheme, will answer vital questions about the geology, risk and uncertainty which neither geoenergy station can determine.

There is a significant global market for application of these technologies, with exploitation of low-temperature deep geothermal being undertaken across Europe, with a similar geology to the Cheshire Basin. There are also significant global opportunities, with areas identified in figure 5 between 45-90 degrees being particularly applicable. The value of geothermal energy and its potential in Europe are outlined on the Geothermal District Heating (GEDH) website.

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