Hill of Banchory geothermal energy project: feasibility report

Report of a study which explored the potential for a deep geothermal heat project at the Hill of Banchory, Aberdeenshire.

14. Deep Geothermal Regulation

The regulation and control of activities which may be undertaken during the exploration and exploitation of geothermal heat is described in brief below, with reference to the Scottish Government's Regulatory Guidance: Geothermal Heat in Scotland (2016) [7] and to SEPA's Supporting Guidance Groundwater Abstractions - Geothermal Energy (WAT-SG-62) [8] (2014).


Planning permission from the relevant Planning Authority is required for any new development - any building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land - which includes works associated with borehole construction and wellhead development. As part of a planning application, an Environmental Impact Assessment may be required to be undertaken.


The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency ( SEPA) regulates activities that may cause pollution or that pose another risk to the environment. Abstractions (including borehole construction) from, and discharges to, the water environment are controlled activities as described by the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003. The introduction of heat into the water environment is included in "pollution" as defined in the Act. SEPA regulates such activities through the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (' CAR').

Operating a 'closed-loop' deep geothermal system, i.e. no abstractions from or discharges to the water environment, SEPA will generally not require authorisation under CAR as the impacts on groundwater are likely to be negligible. However, where a borehole is to be drilled to or below a depth of 200m a complex licence application is required. Details of information required to support an application are contained in SEPA's guidance document Regulatory Method Licensing Groundwater Abstractions including Dewatering (WAT-RM-11) [9] (2013).

Operations / Health & Safety

Under the Water (Scotland) Act 1980 anyone proposing to sink a well or borehole for the purpose of searching for, or abstracting, water must notify the British Geological Survey ( BGS) before drilling commences, and maintain a journal to be sent to BGS on completion or abandonment of the work.

The Borehole Sites and Operations Regulations 1995 are not applicable since the Hill of Banchory project does not involve mine water. The Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc.) Regulations 1996 places obligations on the operator concerning the safety of the well at all stages in its life. These Regulations inform the broader requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Regulation 10 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires wellhead operators to provide employees with health surveillance. Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 requires that equipment is suitable for use, and for the purpose and conditions in which it is to be used. The equipment must also be maintained in a safe condition for use so that people's health and safety is not at risk.


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