Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This is the new blog site for the Boulby Geoscience project, which is run by the University of Durham and funded by ONE Northeast. I will be using this site to provide regular updates on the development of the project and on underground geoscience in general.

Image courtesy of Cleveland Potash

In the meantime, here is a little more information about the project:

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 hydrocarbon costs are now threatening the economy of both developed and developing economies.

Image courtesy of Cleveland Potash

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;

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 one science-led spin-out company;
9. Offer training and development opportunities to local SMEs and major employers.

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