UCD Earth Institute

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Energy & Resources

Our lifestyle has become increasingly dependent on energy and resources.

Unprecedented innovation means that every day we face increasing choices of faster, lighter and more irresistible technological devices that consume energy and require minerals and novel materials to function.

Global warming concerns together with high fossil fuel prices and political instability have driven governments to support the use of renewable energy from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat through legislation and incentives.

Despite evidence that renewable energy contributes to mitigate climate change, only about 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewable resources. New technologies, ranging from more effective energy storage, to better harnessing wave and wind power, to changing consumer behaviour to reduce electricity use are all required to maintain competitiveness and reduce risks posed by climate change.

Key words: Renewables, Geothermal, Wind, Marine, Wave Energy, Solar, Biofuels, Hydropower, New Materials, Raw Materials, Fossil Fuels, Oil and Gas Exploration, Energy Economics.

 

Earth Institute academics working in this area:

Research impacts

In our quest to identify sustainable energy resources, Prof. Stephen Daly and Nicola Wilmot Noller at UCD Earth Institute are currently investigating geothermal energy. Geothermal has a number of advantages such as consistent supply, low emissions, small surface footprint and sustainability.

The aim of this research is to increase knowledge of Irish geology with regard to deep geothermal energy potential, which can inform exploration for ‘hot dry rock’ targets for example, the 3D distribution of heat production through natural radioactive decay in Irish rocks.

Data from lab- and field-based analyses are input into a geographical information system to enable spatial representation, interpretation and extrapolation of heat production rates in rocks across Ireland.

Researchers can then can evaluate heat production variation at different crustal levels using (i) the downward projection of surface geology at relatively shallow depths and (ii) geochemical analysis of deeper crustal sample which have been brought to the surface through natural processes.

It is also possible to combine these analyses with borehole data, seismic imaging, gravity data and geophysical modelling to help characterise this natural resource.

The Earth’s mineral deposits are the sources of metals for manufactured goods, including iron for steel-making, zinc for galvanizing and numerous rarer metals of increasing importance in high-tech and sustainable energy industries. Demand for minerals is growing as humanity aspires to the living standards of the developed world.

How do mineral deposits form? How can we locate them? How can we make more efficient use of them? These questions are answered through studying the geochemistry of mineral deposits and have been the focus of Dr Julian Menuge research at UCD Earth Institute. Surprisingly, the answers to these questions are often interlinked.

Menuge’s research at Europe’s largest zinc mine (Navan, County Meath) has demonstrated how the deposit formed when earthquakes and submarine landslides caused zinc to be trapped in rocks below what was then the seafloor.

The spatial chemical and isotopic variations established when the mineral deposit formed suggest a means to locate further deposits, whilst mineral chemistry has provided new insights into more efficient metal extraction methods