A new geoenergy observatory is to be set up to study the potential effects of fracking in Cheshire.
Plans build the new observatory were put forward by the British Geological Survey (BGS). The observatory will draw on information gathered from two sites, one in Cheshire and the other in Glasgow, to give a better understanding of the underground environment for new energy technologies.
North Cheshire is covered by an onshore oil and gas licence, with operators actively exploring the area.
The new observatory is being commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and delivered by the BGS.
The BGS said it would look at how shale gas behaved in the ground at the Cheshire site, and although NERC would not commission any shale gas extraction, if licenses were granted for others to extract gas in the area, the BGS would monitor the effects and make the data available.
Researchers at the site will also examine the technologies and science needed for carbon storage, energy storage and underground storage of waste material.
The new field research site in Cheshire will be created by drilling around 80 observation boreholes of various depths across a 28km2 area around Ince Marshes. These boreholes will allow scientists and geoengineers to observe how fluids and gas flow within underground systems and to understand the relationship between the rock layers from the surface to the deep underground environment.
Measurements taken from the boreholes will look at issues such as seismic activity, water movement and chemistry.
BGS executive director John Ludden said it had been modelling the geology of the Ince Marshes area since 2016 to determine its suitability for geological and energy technology research. He said the marshes provided researchers with a complex geological environment, enabling them to examine the way different rock types behave at a range of depths.
“We need the subsurface environment to develop a mix of low-carbon energy technologies at the required scale – whether that is for carbon storage, energy storage, geothermal energy, hydrogen production or lower-carbon energy sources,” said Ludden. “It is vital that we build the best-possible geological evidence base to be able to optimise the process without an adverse impact on the environment.”