GeoScience Limited was founded in 1985 as a spin-off from the Hot Dry Rock geothermal research project run by Camborne School of Mines. That project, based at Rosemanowes Quarry near Penryn, developed techniques for the creation of artificial geothermal reservoirs that have been applied around the world.
Now, twenty five years after work stopped at Rosemanowes, the company is once again at the forefront of geothermal research in the UK. In partnership with Geothermal Engineering Limited we are starting work on the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project, just a few km from our offices in Cornwall.
The project has secured funding of £10.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund. An additional grant of £2.4 million from Cornwall Council and private investment of £5 million will allow us to explore the geothermal resources at a depth of 4.5km and build a 1MW power plant to demonstrate the technical and commercial viability of supplying both electricity and heat. This will be the first geothermal power project in the UK.
Two wells will be drilled into a target geological structure within the granite beneath United Downs; one to a depth of 2.5km and the other to a depth of 4.5km. Water will be circulated through the fracture system from the shallow injection well to the deep production well, mining heat from the rocks. It will be pumped to surface at a temperature of about 175°C where it will supply the demonstration power plant to produce 1MW of clean renewable electricity.
During the second half of 2017 the site will be prepared for drilling, project infrastructure will be put in place and a microseismic monitoring network will be installed. We hope to start drilling the injection well in early 2018.
Throughout the 3 years of the project data, information and knowledge will be disseminated through public engagement events and an extensive educational programme for Primary, Secondary, Further and Higher Education Institutions. A parallel research programme at Plymouth University will investigate issues around public perception and acceptance of geothermal energy in Cornwall, which will be critical for us to gain a social licence to develop further sites if the United Downs project concept proves successful.
We’ve been trying for 30 years to get a commercial-depth geothermal well drilled in Cornwall. Finally, we can find out what’s really down there.