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Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Boulby Geoscience

A research project of the Department of Geography.

Background

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, society is facing a set of serious challenges with a geological origin. Key amongst these are:
1. The threats associated with increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the associated changes in climate and sea level;
2. Threats associated with the reducing availability of oil and gas reserves at a time in which demand is increasing rapidly;
3. In conjunction with 2., increasing scarcity of natural resources such as metals and fertilisers, manifested as rapid increases in commodity prices.

All of these issues are having direct and important impacts on society. For example, high oil and gas costs are now threatening the economy of both developed and developing economies.
Overcoming the above requires a great deal of investment and a long and intense geoscience research programme. There are substantial opportunities associated with these programmes as successful research has the potential to literally change the world. However, at present this research is hugely constrained by the lack of appropriate real world research facilities. What is needed is a test site in that would allow experiments into, for example:
1. Ways to maximise extraction of oil and gas from natural reservoirs;
2. Processes for the sequestering (storage) of carbon dioxide underground;
3. Improved mining technologies;
4. Ways to improve the mining of valuable ores and minerals;

Aims

This project is designed to create such a facility, which would be genuinely unique. Thus, in order of importance, the project will:
1. Detail the opportunities for the development of a deep geoscience facility at Boulby, which is the only potash mine in the UK, ultimately placing North-East England at the heart of the development of new energy and environment technologies;
2. Demonstrate the viability of the Boulby mine site for underground geoscience research;
3. Develop detailed plans for the implementation of the detailed design phase , including the establishment of the range of facilities required;
4. Advance underground science in terms of rock mechanics, geophysical processes and hydrogeology and the coupling between subsurface and surface processes;
5. Raise awareness regionally, nationally and internationally of the potential offered by the Boulby facility;
6. Provide science-led engagement between the NE geoscience community and local business and government;
7. Attract inward investment in terms of research and development;
8. Create science-led employment through the establishment of at least two science-led spin-out company;
9. Offer training and development opportunities to local SMEs and major employers.

Staff

From the Department of Geography