Borehole research in New York State can advance utilization of low-enthalpy geothermal energy, management of potential risks, and understanding of deep sedimentary and crystalline geologic systems

Jordan, Teresa; Fulton, Patrick; Tester, Jefferson; Bruhn, David; Asanuma, Hiroshi; Harms, Ulrich; Wang, Chaoyi; Schmitt, Doug; Vardon, Philip J.; Hofmann, Hannes; Pasquini, Tom; Smith, Jared

In January 2020, a scientific borehole planning workshop sponsored by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program was convened at Cornell University in the northeastern United States. Cornell is planning to drill test wells to evaluate the potential to use geothermal heat from depths in the range of 2700–4500 m and rock temperatures of about 60 to 120 inline-formulaC to heat its campus buildings. Cornell encourages the Earth sciences community to envision how these boreholes can also be used to advance high-priority subsurface research questions. Because nearly all scientific boreholes on the continents are targeted to examine iconic situations, there are large gaps in understanding of the “average” intraplate continental crust. Hence, there is uncommon and widely applicable value to boring and investigating a “boring” location. The workshop focused on designing projects to investigate the coupled thermal–chemical–hydrological–mechanical workings of continental crust. Connecting the practical and scientific goals of the boreholes are a set of currently unanswered questions that have a common root: the complex relationships among pore pressure, stress, and strain in a heterogeneous and discontinuous rock mass across conditions spanning from natural to human perturbations and short to long timescales. The need for data and subsurface characterization vital for decision-making around the prospective Cornell geothermal system provides opportunities for experimentation, measurement, and sampling that might lead to major advances in the understanding of hydrogeology, intraplate seismicity, and fluid/chemical cycling. Subsurface samples could also enable regional geological studies and geobiology research. Following the workshop, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded funds for a first exploratory borehole, whose proposed design and research plan rely extensively on the ICDP workshop recommendations.

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Jordan, Teresa / Fulton, Patrick / Tester, Jefferson / et al: Borehole research in New York State can advance utilization of low-enthalpy geothermal energy, management of potential risks, and understanding of deep sedimentary and crystalline geologic systems. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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