Geology Matters Issue No 11
Introduction Director's Discourse Irish Geoscience Graduate Programme IRETHERM Dublin on the Rocks GSI Awards 2010 USGS visit GSI TELLUS Border Geoscience 2010 Conference Geoscience Initiatives Programme Staff News New Products

GSI is happy to announce its involvement in an exciting new geothermal energy assessment project named IRETHERM. This project, led by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) in collaboration with various academic, government and industry partners, is aiming to develop a strategic and holistic understanding of Ireland’s geothermal energy potential through integrated modelling of new and existing geophysical and geological data. IRETHERM is funded by Science Foundation Ireland under SFI grant number 10/IN.1/I3022.

IRETHERM  Project Overview

Professor Alan G. Jones and Dr. Mark Muller, DIAS

Ireland has a strategic imperative to assess all prospective sources of sustainable energy. Of the available options, there is, to date, insufficient knowledge of Ireland’s potential for geothermal energy provision for district-scale space-heating and electricity generation to make sensible decisions and choices. Existing measurements indicate temperatures at depths to 5,000m that are hot enough (100–150°C) to generate electricity using current technology and that could do so commercially in the future with ongoing technological advances.

IRETHERM (IREland’s geoTHERMal potential) will seek to expand significantly the existing temperature database to allow more reliable targeting of prospective areas. The project will study eight different "types" of geological environments to identify those that may host geothermal resources: deep aquifers or hot, dry rock. A comprehensive suite of crustal rocks will be collected across Ireland and chemically analysed to determine their capacity for generating radiogenic heat. Existing and opportunistic boreholes will be logged. New electromagnetic and gravity data will be acquired in the type areas. High resolution geophysical modelling tools will be developed for imaging aquifers and granitic bodies to depths of 5 km. These innovative software tools will allow joint modelling of electromagnetic and other existing geophysical data. IRETHERM will significantly enhance the capacity to accurately characterise subsurface geology and potential geothermal resources.

Geothermal energy potential

IRETHERM will assess eight different geological environments for their geothermal energy potential. Here the target areas are overlain on modelled crustal temperatures at 2,500 m depth (courtesy R. Goodman, SLR Consulting).

IRETHERM Project Rationale & Collaboration
Ireland has serious and imperative decisions to make about its energy future. Optimally, Ireland should be pursuing options that ensure its energy independence and security whilst at the same time being cognisant of the requirement to develop renewable and sustainable energy sources for post-hydrocarbon times. The choices comprise wind, solar, hydro (dams, tidal, and wave), bio (biomass and biofuel), and geothermal. Of these, Ireland’s potential for tapping into its geothermal energy is the least-known and least-explored, as the detailed knowledge of Ireland’s 3-D geology required for appropriate assessment is inadequate. IRETHERM will address this knowledge gap via sophisticated modern research. The IRETHERM project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (value €850,000) over a four-and-a-half year period, initiating in March, 2011. Its structure is particularly strategic: encompassing an all-island, North-South, academic-government-industry collaboration between DIAS, UCD, UCC, GSI, GSNI, and SLR Consulting. The project’s website, which will be live in due course, is

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