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Using saline or brackish aquifers as reservoirs for thermal energy storage, with example calculations for direct-use heating in the Portland Basin, Oregon, USA

June 28, 2020

Tools to evaluate reservoir thermal energy storage (RTES; heat storage in slow-moving or stagnant geochemically evolved permeable zones in strata that underlie well-connected regional aquifers) are developed and applied to the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) beneath the Portland Basin, Oregon, USA. The performance of RTES for heat storage and recovery in the Portland Basin is strongly dependent on the operational schedule of heat injection and extraction. We examined the effects of the operational schedule, based on an annual solar hot water supply pattern and a building heating demand model, using heat and fluid flow simulations with SUTRA. We show RTES to be feasible for supply of heating energy for a large combined research/teaching building on the Oregon Health and Science University South Waterfront expansion, an area of planned future development. Initially, heat is consumed to increase the reservoir temperature, and conductive heat loss is high due to high temperature gradients between the reservoir and surrounding rock. Conductive heat loss continues into the future, but the rate of heat loss decreases, and heat recovery efficiency of the RTES system increases over time. Simulations demonstrate the effects of varying heat-delivery rate and temperature on the heat production history of the reservoir. If 100% of building heating needs are to be supplied by combined solar/RTES, then the solar system must be sized to meet building needs plus long-term thermal losses (i.e., conductive losses once the system is heated to pseudo-steady state) from the RTES system. If the solar heating system barely meets these criteria, then during early years, less than 100% of the building demand will be supplied until the reservoir is fully-heated. The duration of supplying less than 100% of building demand can be greatly shortened by pre-heating the reservoir before building heating operations or by adding extra heat from external sources during early years. Analytic solutions are developed to evaluate efficacy and to help design RTES systems (e.g., well-spacing, thermal source sizing, etc.). A map of thermal energy storage capacity is produced for the CRBG beneath the Portland Basin. The simulated building has an annual heat load of ∼1.9 GWh, and the total annual storage capacity of the Portland Basin is estimated to be 43,400 GWh assuming seasonal storage of heat yields water from which 10 °C can be extracted via heat exchange, indicating a tremendous heating capacity of the CRBG.

    Publication Year 2020
    Title Using saline or brackish aquifers as reservoirs for thermal energy storage, with example calculations for direct-use heating in the Portland Basin, Oregon, USA
    DOI 10.1016/j.geothermics.2020.101877
    Authors Erick Burns, John Bershaw, Colin F. Williams, Ray E Wells, Matt W Uddenberg, Darby P Scanlon, Trenton T Cladouhos, Boz Van Houten
    Publication Type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Series Title Geothermics
    Index ID 70210866
    Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
    USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center; Washington Water Science Center