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Measuring the thermal properties of rock cores at ambient conditions


Project lead: Professor Paul Glover

Project objectives

  • To build and test an apparatus to measure the thermal properties of rock cores at ambient conditions (the design already exists).
  • To measure the thermal properties and associated petrophysical properties of a suite of rocks including those from the UoL boreholes.
  • To analyse and publish data on the relationships between the thermal properties and petrophysical properties of rocks such that they can be used to predict thermal properties in the future

Summary of the project

The University of Leeds is moving towards generating its own geothermal energy by sinking pairs of boreholes to extract hot water for heating. The geothermal properties (thermal diffusivity and thermal conductivity) are critical in characterising and managing this resource, and plays a controlling role in judging the size of the thermal resource and how fast it can be exploited. In this project an apparatus to measure the thermal properties of the rocks will be constructed, tested and used to measure core material from the new geothermal wells and core material from analogous rocks. The cores will also be fully characterised petrophysically using the extensive existing facilities in The Petrophysics Laboratory and Wolfson Laboratory of the School of Earth and Environment as well as LEMAS. These supporting measurements will include porosity, permeability, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Mercury Injection Capillary Pressure (MICP) measurements, and optical and electron micrography, and may also include 3D microCT imaging. The impact of the research is greater because (i) all of the apparatus for the supporting measurements is already available, and (ii) analysis of the new thermal measurements together with supporting measurements, allows the relationships of these parameters to be determined.

The new measurements and supporting measurements will be analysed together to ascertain the main petrophysical controls on the thermal properties such that thermal properties can be predicted easily from more readily available parameters in future. This analysis will include physics-based theoretical petrophysical analysis, statistical and empirical analysis as well as machine learning. It is expected that the work will lead to a minimum of two scientific papers in high quality peer-reviewed journals, data and greater insight into the UoL geothermal project, the capability of predicting geothermal properties from conventional data, and a new capability allowing future geothermal laboratory work at the University of Leeds.

Project outcomes

  • At least two scientific papers in high quality peer-reviewed journals with draft titles of (i) The design, construction an validation of an apparatus for measuring the thermal properties of geothermal core, and (ii) Prediction of the thermal properties of geothermal core from conventional petrophysical properties.
  • An on-site apparatus able to support UoL development of its own geothermal resources.
  • The future ability for SEE laboratories to engage in laboratory geothermal research.
  • An internal report fully characterising the thermal properties of core material from the UoL geothermal drillings

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