2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 113-9
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


CATOLICO, Nora, Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80305, GE, Shemin, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309 and MCCARTNEY, John S., Structural Engineering, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, nora.catolico@colorado.edu

Borehole thermal energy storage (BTES) in soils combined with solar thermal energy harvesting is a promising renewable energy system for heating buildings. The first community-scale BTES system in North America was installed in 2007 at the Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada, and has since supplied more than 90% of the thermal energy for heating 52 homes. A challenge facing BTES system technology is the relatively low efficiency of heat extraction. To better understand the fluid flow and heat transport processes in soils and to improve BTES efficiency of heat extraction for future applications, a three dimensional transient coupled fluid flow and heat transfer model is established using TOUGH2.

Measured time-dependent injection temperatures and fluid circulation rates at the Drake Landing Solar Community are used as model inputs. The model is calibrated using measured soil temperature time series. The simulated and measured temperatures agree well with an intrinsic permeability of 1.5×10-14 m2, thermal conductivity of 2.0 W/m°C, and a volumetric heat capacity of 2.3 MJ/m3 °C. The calibrated model serves as the basis for a sensitivity analysis of soil thermal and hydrological parameters on BTES system heat extraction efficiency. Sensitivity analysis results suggest that: 1) BTES heat extraction efficiency increases with decreasing soil thermal conductivity; 2) BTES efficiency decreases with background groundwater flow; 3) BTES heat extraction efficiency decreases with convective heat losses associated with high soil permeability values; and 4) unsaturated soils show higher overall heat extraction efficiency due to convection onset at higher intrinsic permeability values.