ERE 2020/2021 Division Outstanding ECS Award Lectures


ERE 2020/2021 Division Outstanding ECS Award Lectures
Conveners: Sonja Martens, Viktor J. Bruckman
| Tue, 27 Apr, 15:30–16:35 (CEST)
Public information:
This session features outstanding early career scientists (ECS) lectures by our 2020 (Estanislao Pujades) and 2021 (Giorgia Dalla Santa) awardees. The current ERE president and vice president will intoduce the awardees and explain the context. Everyone is welcome to join these lectures, representing excellent research within the ERE domain!

Session assets

Presentations: Tue, 27 Apr

Chairpersons: Sonja Martens, Viktor J. Bruckman
ERE Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture 2020
Estanislao Pujades

Underground pumped storage hydropower (UPSH) is an alternative energy storage system (ESS) for flat regions, where conventional pumped storage hydropower plants cannot be constructed due to topographical limitations. UPSH plants consist in two reservoirs, the upper one is located at the surface or possibly underground (but at shallow depth) while the lower one is underground. Although the underground reservoir can be drilled, the use of abandoned mines (deep or open pit mines) as underground reservoir is a more efficient alternative that is also beneficial for local communities after the cessation of mining activities. Given that mines are rarely waterproofed, water exchanges between UPSH plants and the underground medium are expected. Water exchanges may have negative consequences for the environment, but also for the feasibility of UPSH plants. The impacts on the environment and the plant efficiency may have hydraulic (changes of the natural piezometric head distribution, effects in the hydraulic head difference between the two reservoirs, etc.) or hydrochemical nature (dissolution and/or precipitation of minerals in the aquifer and in the reservoirs, corrosion of facilities, modification of pH, etc.). At this stage, it is required a sound understanding of all the impacts produced by the water exchanges and evaluate under which circumstances they are mitigated. This assessment will allow ascertaining criteria for the selection of the best places to construct future UPSH plants.

How to cite: Pujades, E.: Underground pumped storage hydropower (UPSH) and its interaction with the saturated subsurface medium: effects of the water exchanges on the environment and the plant efficiency, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1127,, 2021.

ERE Division Outstanding ECS Award Lecture 2021
Giorgia Dalla Santa, Simonetta Cola, and Antonio Galgaro

In closed-loop Ground Source Heat Pump system, the circulation of a heat-carrier fluid into the heat exchanger provides the thermal exchange with the underground.

In order to improve the heat extraction from the ground, the fluid temperature is often lowered down to subzero temperatures; as a consequence, the thermal alteration induced in the ground is more intense and can cause freezing processes in the surroundings. In sediments with significant clay fraction, the inner structure and the pore size distribution are irreversibly altered by freezing-thawing cycles.

A wide laboratory program has been performed in order to measure the induced deformations and the permeability variations under different conditions of mechanical loads/depth [1], interstitial water salinity [2] and soil plasticity [3]. In addition, vertical deformations and permeability variations induced by freeze-thaw cycles have been measured also in Over-Consolidated silty clays at different OCR [4].

The results suggest that, despite the induced frozen condition is quite confined close to the borehole [5], in Normal-Consolidated silty clay layers the freezing-thawing-cycles induce an irreversible settlement up to 16%, gathered cycle-after cycle depending on sediment plasticity, pore fluid salinity and applied load. In addition, despite the overall contraction of the soil, the vertical hydraulic conductivity may increase by about 8 times due to a remarkable modification of the soil fabric with increases in pore size, pores connectivity and orientation [6].

The OC silty-clays show an opposite behavior. Experimental results point out that, in case of OC deposits, higher the OCR lower the freeze-thaw induced settlement. In case of OCR > 15, the settlement turns to a slight expansion. Conversely, the observed augment in vertical permeability increases with the OCR degree [4].

These occurrences are significant and irreversible and could affect the functionality of the system as well as lead to environmental effects such as local settlements, negative friction on the borehole heat exchangers or interconnection among aquifers in the probe surroundings.

  • [1]. Dalla Santa G*, Galgaro A, Tateo F, Cola S (2016). Modified compressibility of cohesive sediments induced by thermal anomalies due to a borehole heat exchanger. Engineering Geology 202, 143-152.
  • [2]. Dalla Santa G*, Galgaro A, Tateo F, Cola S (2016). Induced thermal compaction in cohesive sediments around a borehole heat exchanger: laboratory tests on the effect of pore water salinity. Environmental Earth Sciences, 75(3), 1-11.
  • [3]. Cola S, Dalla Santa G, Galgaro A (2020). Geotechnical hazards caused by freezing-thawing processes induced by borehole heat exchangers. Lecture Notes in Civil Engineering, 40, pp. 529–536
  • [4]. Dalla Santa G, Cola S, Galgaro A (2021). Deformation and Vertical Permeability Variations Induced by Freeze-Thaw Cycles in Over-Consolidated Silty Clays. Challenges and Innovations in Geomechanics, 117
  • [5]. Dalla Santa G*, Farina Z, Anbergen H, Rühaak W, Galgaro A (2019). A Comparative Study on the Relevance of Computing Freeze-Thaw Effects for Borehole Heat Exchanger Modelling. Geothermics 79, 164-175.
  • [6]. Dalla Santa G*, Cola S, Secco M, Tateo F, Sassi R, Galgaro A (2019). Multiscale analysis of freeze-thaw effects induced by ground heat exchangers on permeability of silty-clays. Geotechnique 2019, 69(2).

How to cite: Dalla Santa, G., Cola, S., and Galgaro, A.: Deformations and permeability variations in fine sediments induced by freezing-thawing cycles caused by borehole heat exchangers, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-348,, 2021.