Development of a Laboratory Experiment to Derivate the Thermal Conductivity based on Electrical Resistivity Measurments

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Linda Firmbach, Peter Dietrich and Thomas Vienken, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Leipzig, Department Monitoring and Exploration Technologies, Leipzig, Germany
In the course of the energy transition, the number of shallow geothermal systems is constantly growing. These systems allow the exploitation of renewable energy from the subsurface, reduced CO2 emission and additionally, energy storage. An efficient performance of geothermal systems strongly depends upon the availability of exploration data (e.g. thermal conductivity distribution). However, due to high exploration costs, the dimensioning of smaller plants (< 30 kW) is generally based on literature values. While standard in-situ-tests are persistent for larger scale projects, they yield only integral values, e.g. entire length of a borehole heat exchanger. Hence, exploring the distribution of the thermal conductivity as important soil parameter requires the development of new cost-efficient technologies.

The general relationship between the electrical (RE) and the thermal resistivity (RT) can be described as

log(RE) = CR log(RT)

with CRas a multiplier depending on additional soil parameter (e.g. water content, density, porosity, grain size and distribution). Knowing the influencing factor of these additional determining parameters, geoelectrical measurements could provide a cost-efficient exploration strategy of the thermal conductivity for shallow geothermal sites. The aim of this study now is to define the multiplier CRexperimentally to conclude the exact correlation of the thermal and electrical behavior.

The set-up consists of an acrylic glass tube with two current electrodes installed at the upper and lower end of the tube. Four electrode chains (each with eight electrodes) measure the potential differences in respect to an induced heat flux initiated by a heat plate. Additional, eight temperature sensors measure the changes of the temperature differences. First, we use this set-up to analyze the influence of soil properties based on differing homogenous sediments with known chemical and petro-physical properties. Further, we analyze the influence of the water content by using differing saturation levels. Based on these values, we will define the multiplier CR and finally determine the exact correlation between the thermal and the electrical resistivity.