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Digital twin for integration of thermal minewater thermal resources into engineering systems

   Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

About the Project

To meet our national Net Zero emission targets, it is essential that we accelerate the decarbonisation of energy production. More than 50% of Scotland’s energy demand is for heating. Heating is particularly tricky to decarbonise due to decentralised generation and consumption, overreliance on fossil fuels and dependence on seasonal and weather conditions. Flooded coal mines are common beneath much of the UK’s most populated areas and host a potentially valuable thermal resource. Minewaters are heated by the constant flux of geothermal heat from the Earth and are insulated from seasonal variations in surface temperature, creating reservoirs with consistent temperatures of between 11 and 20°C, providing a higher and more stable coefficient of performance for heat pumps. The potential for storage of waste heat within the flooded mines opens up further opportunities.

The successful candidate will develop a digital twin/digital shadow of the built (surface) and natural (subsurface) environments. The digital twin approach will be designed to optimise the integration of minewater thermal resources for both heat generation and thermal energy storage into the design of domestic and commercial building developments. It will use COWI’s existing Building Information Model (BIM) approach for above-ground infrastructure to incorporate minewater resources into planning from the outset and allow for informed prediction of the carbon footprint of associated construction efforts.

Based between Strathclyde’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and COWI’s Glasgow office, the candidate will become part of a wider innovation ecosystem set-up with additional SME and governance partners. This holistic cross-sector approach aims to advance Scotland’s green thermal energy transition through application of artificial intelligence and machine learning to elevate the expertise and efforts of individual organisations. The candidate will collaborate with a second COWI-Datalab-Strathclyde PhD (already appointed) focussing on diagnostic approaches for accurate prediction of thermal behaviour in minewater systems. The PhD has two main project objectives: (1) develop an approach to creating a digital twin that combines subsurface and built environments to analyse impact and sensitivity of a series of key system element characteristics; and (2) develop a heat distribution optimisation tool to identify key improvements to the built system, taking current practices closer to the "smart distribution networks" of the future.

This studentship will include training and applied use of standard modelling techniques and provide the opportunity to engage with and visit Danish based collaborators within both COWI and innovation ecosystem collaborative partners. This project will allow the student to develop qualitative and quantitative research, building information modelling, subsurface resource assessment, system-coupling, risk assessment, and energy modelling skills. With ever increasing focus on delivery of a Net Zero future, the UK geothermal energy sector is seeing rapid growth of employment opportunities. The candidate would be well placed for career in the renewable energy, engineering consultancy, regulatory agency or governance sectors. 

The applicant will hold, or be in the process of obtaining, a Bachelors (upper second or first class) or integrated Masters degree or equivalent in Civil Engineering, Computer Sciences or a similar discipline related to the proposed research. 

Scripting/coding skills and an understanding of automated workflows in a dynamic/parametric modelling context is essential. Proficiency with standard (BIM) modelling platforms such as Revit, Civil 3D, and/or Tekla is highly beneficial.

Having a good grasp on data analytics, advanced visualisation, and/or digital engineering would be a bonus. The candidate must demonstrate capability for picking up new skills in a relatively short period of time and possess solid teamwork qualities in working with other researchers as well as external specialists and innovation ecosystem members who provide technical support to the overall project. 

This is a fully-funded project covering a stipend and fees for those who meet UK residency requirements. 

Funding Notes

This is a fully-funded project covering a stipend and fees for those who meet UK residency requirements.
Funding towards:
• Equipment costs
• Home fee
• Stipend
• Travel costs

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