Numerical Modeling of a Shallow Borehole Thermal Energy Storage System

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Nora Catolico1, Shemin Ge1, Ning Lu2 and John S. McCartney1, (1)University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States, (2)Colorado School Mines, Golden, CO, United States
Borehole thermal energy storage (BTES) combined with solar thermal energy harvesting is an economic technological system to garner and store energy as well as an environmentally-sustainable alternative for the heating of buildings. The first community-scale BTES system in North America was installed in 2007 in the Drake Landing Solar Community (DLSC), about 35 miles south of Calgary, Canada. The BTES system involves direct circulation of water heated from solar thermal panels in the summer into a storage tank, after which it is circulate within an array of 144 closed-loop geothermal heat exchangers having a depth of 35 m and a spacing of 2.5 m. In the winter the circulation direction is reversed to supply heat to houses. Data collection over a six year period indicates that this system can supply more than 90% of the winter heating energy needs for 52 houses in the community. One major challenge facing the BTES system technology is the relatively low annual efficiency, i.e., the ratio of energy input and output is in the range of 15% to 40% for the system in Drake Landing. To better understand the working principles of BTES and to improve BTES performance for future applications at larger scales, a three-dimensional transient coupled fluid and heat transfer model is established using TOUGH2. The time-dependent injection temperatures and circulation rate measured over the six years of monitoring are used as model input. The simulations are calibrated using soil temperature data measured at different locations over time. The time-dependent temperature distributions within the borehole region agree well with the measured temperatures for soil with an intrinsic permeability of 10e-19 m2, an apparent thermal conductivity of 2.03 W/m°C, and a volumetric heat capacity of 2.31 MJ/m-3°C. The calibrated model serves as the basis for a sensitivity analysis of soil and operational parameters on BTES system efficiency preformed with TOUGH2. Preliminary results suggest 1) BTES efficiency increases with increased in-pipe circulation rates; 2) BTES efficiency increases with decreasing soil thermal conductivity due to lateral heat loss from the system; and 3) BTES efficiency increases only slightly with decreasing soil permeability.