In May 1980, the University of Minnesota began a project to evaluate the feasibility of storing heated water (150 degrees Celsius) in the Franconia-Ironton Galesville aquifer (183 to 245 meters below land surface) and later recovering it for space heating. The University's steam-generation facilities supplied high-temperature water for injection. The Aquifer Thermal-Energy Storage system is a doublet-well design in which the injection-withdrawal wells are spaced approximately 250 meters apart. Water was pumped from one of the wells through a heat exchanger, where heat was added or removed. This water was then injected back into the aquifer through the other well.
Four short-term test cycles were completed. Each cycle consisted of approximately equal durations of injection and withdrawal ranging from 5.25 to 8.01 days. Equal rates of injection and withdrawal, ranging from 17.4 to 18.6 liters per second, were maintained for each short-term test cycle. Average injection temperatures ranged from 88.5 to 117.9 degrees Celsius.
Temperature graphs for selected depths at individual observation wells indicate that the Ironton and Galesville Sandstones received and stored more thermal energy than the upper part of the Franconia Formation. Clogging of the Ironton Sandstone was possibly due to precipitation of calcium carbonate or movement of fine-grain material or both. Vertical-profile plots indicate that the effects of buoyancy flow were small within the aquifer.
A three-dimensional, anisotropic, nonisothermal, ground-water-flow, and thermal-energy-transport model was constructed to simulate the four short-term test cycles. The model was used to simulate the entire short-term testing period of approximately 400 days. The only model properties varied during model calibration were longitudinal and transverse thermal dispersivities, which, for final calibration, were simulated as 3.3 and 0.33 meters, respectively. The model was calibrated by comparing model-computed results to (1) measured temperatures at selected altitudes in four observation wells, (2) measured temperatures at the production well, and (3) calculated thermal efficiencies of the aquifer. Model-computed withdrawal-water temperatures were within an average of about 3 percent of measured values and model-computed aquifer-thermal efficiencies were within an average of about 5 percent of calculated values for the short-term test cycles. These data indicate that the model accurately simulated thermal-energy storage within the Franconia-Ironton-Galesville aquifer.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Cyclic injection, storage, and withdrawal of heated water in a sandstone aquifer at St. Paul, Minnesota--Analysis of thermal data and nonisothermal modeling of short-term test cycles