A Review on Concepts, Applications, and Models of Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage Systems

A Water and Marine Sustainability Month Feature Article

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Geothermal drill rig. Public domain image courtesy of Tetris L.

Kun Sang Lee  of the Department of Environmental and Energy Systems Engineering, Kyonggi University has published a useful technical paper on the concepts, applications, and models of aquifer thermal energy storage systems.  The abstract to this paper: Being a heat source or sink, aquifers have been used to store large quantities of thermal energy to match cooling and heating supply and demand on both a short-term and long-term basis. The current technical, economic, and environmental status of aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) is promising. General information on the basic operation principles, design, and construction of ATES systems is discussed in this paper. Numerous projects in operation around the world are summarized to illustrate the present status of ATES. Hydrogeological-thermal simulation has become an integral part of predicting ATES system performance. Numerical models which are available to simulate an ATES system by modeling mass and heat transport in the aquifer have been summarized. This paper also presents an example of numerical simulation and thermohydraulic evaluation of a two-well, ATES system operating under a continuous flow regime.

The introduction to this paper reads:

As the demand for energy increases, effective or enhanced energy conservation is crucial. Around the world, thermal energy storage (TES) system applications have been shown to provide economical and environmentally friendly solutions to energy problems and increasing attention has been paid to their utilization. The basic purpose behind thermal storage is to provide a buffer to balance fluctuations in supply and demand of low temperature thermal energy. TES makes it possible to more effectively utilize new renewable energy sources (solar, geothermal, ambient, etc.) and waste heat/cold recovery for space heating and cooling. With a storage medium of various types and sizes, TES systems therefore contribute to improving energy efficiency.

Underground thermal energy storage (UTES) has been used for seasonal storage of large quantities of thermal energy to supply process cooling, space cooling, space heating, and ventilation air preheating. UTES systems are usually divided into two groups. In borehole thermal energy storage (BTES) systems, also called “closed” systems, a fluid (water in most cases) is pumped through heat exchangers in the ground. In aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) or “open” systems, groundwater is pumped out of the ground and injected into the ground by using wells to carry the thermal energy into and out of an aquifer.

Aquifer thermal energy storage systems utilize low-temperature geothermal aquifer resources. Being necessary for the implementation of ATES, aquifers are underground, water-yielding geological formations, either unconsolidated or consolidated. Two hydraulically-coupled wells are normally used to separate water supply from storage. Aquifers can be discharged effectively through production wells to meet large cooling and heating demands.

An advantage of open systems is the generally higher heat transfer capacity of a well compared to a borehole. This makes ATES usually the cheapest alternative if the subsurface is hydrogeologically and hydrochemically suited for the system. Such aquifers have potential to offer an economical way of storing thermal energy for long periods of time. ATES systems have been successfully used around the world for the seasonal storage of heat and cold energy for the purpose of heating and/or cooling residential and industrial buildings and greenhouses.

The present work reviews basic concepts and operation regime of ATES systems. This paper attempts to summarize developments during the last four decades and current statistics on aquifer thermal energy storage around world. The review also covers a general procedure for design and construction of ATES systems. Mathematical theory on the thermo-hydrogeological modeling of ATES systems is discussed. The features of a variety of simulation codes are summarized. Finally, an example of modeling and simulation of hypothetical ATES systems for long-term heat storage operations is presented.

Read the full article in PDF format by clicking here.

Citation: Lee, K.S. A Review on Concepts, Applications, and Models of Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage Systems. Energies 2010, 3, 1320-1334.

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