IRECCSEM is an academic research program that aims at an evaluation of geophysical imaging methods, which are needed for a better understanding the subsurface. The identification of subsurface structure and properties is important for many potential uses, such as CO2 long term storage or geothermal energy, with a strong commitment to environmental safety.
This research aims at reducing Ireland's CO2 footprint, either by reducing its emissions by reducing hydrocarbon usage, or by inhibiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing producers (e.g. power stations) entering the atmosphere, where it would aggravate human-made climate change. Both, long-term underground carbon storage and the use of geothermal energy, are seen worldwide as technologies which contribute to the smooth movement from the extensive use of fossil fuels to the use of renewable energy sources. While there are no plans for carbon storage in Ireland, geothermal energy may play a limited role in this process. However, a better knowledge of the subsurface, and the development of techniques to reliably image it are essential in the wider framework of European and worldwide research and technology development.
The current project "IRECCSEM" is part of this effort. As academic research it is neither related to any commercial Irish carbon storage project, nor to any shale gas exploration ("fracking technology"). Our research project takes the Northwest Carboniferous Basin as a test area to evaluate whether our geophysical imaging methods are suitable for the discrimination of geological structures which are favourable for the aforementioned uses, or have to be discarded. This area was chosen to test the geophysical surveying, as it already has a database of information on the subsurface, including seismic surveys and drilling from hydrocarbon exploration in the late 1970's and 1980's. There is also an a cooperation with Spanish colleagues in one of Europe's test areas for the development of technology for safe long-term storage of CO2 at Hontomin, Spain www.compostillaproject.eu/en.
To reach our research objective, we are currently making passive electromagnetic measurements at many localities, primarily in County Fermanagh. The geophysical method used is "Magnetotellurics" (MT), which is a non-invasive, non-destructive, geophysical imaging method in which Earth's naturally-occurring electrical and magnetic fields are recorded and subsequently used to produce an image of the rocks below the surface. The survey will be finished by July 31th 2015.
Further information on the instruments can be found HERE. The installation of these instruments will cause no damage to fields and offers no risk to crops and livestock. They will remain on site for one to three days and nights only.
IRECCSEM is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through an Investigator Project grant to Professor Alan G. Jones of DIAS.
The proposed IRECCSEM Research Programme can be downloaded from here.