Publication - Independent report

Potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland: study volume 1

Published: 13 Nov 2013

This independent study investigates the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland and the steps necessary for commercialisation.

Potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland: study volume 1
6 Planning Regulations, Policies, Plans and Guidance for Deep Geothermal Energy Developments

6 Planning Regulations, Policies, Plans and Guidance for Deep Geothermal Energy Developments

6.1 Introduction

The Scottish Government wishes to promote geothermal energy as a low-carbon energy source and encourage its commercial development.

As part of this study, a review of the existing legislation, regulations, policy and guidance has been undertaken. The aim of the review is to identify potential barriers within the planning system, and opportunities for positive interventions.

The mapping of potential geothermal resources, in conjunction with other sources of information (including the results of ongoing heat mapping across Scottish planning authority areas), will inform spatial planning by identifying areas of both heat demand and potential geothermal energy resources. In addition, some areas with suitable geothermal heat resources at significant depth (4 to 5km) will also be suitable for relatively small-scale electricity generation (typically <10MW) as well as heat production. Identifying demand and supply will allow development plan land allocation to be considered.

A review of the following has been undertaken to identify potential barriers to geothermal energy within the existing planning regime, including:

  • planning legislation (acts and regulations);
  • planning national planning policies (National Planning Framework ( NPF) 2 (2009) and Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) (2010));
  • Scottish Government Circulars, Planning Advice Notes ( PANs) and online renewables planning advice; and
  • Relevant local authority development plans and policies, and emerging development plans and policies, (in the geographic areas identified as having the most developable geothermal energy resources)

Based on the review, potential changes (or 'interventions') have been identified and recommended for planning legislation, national policy, guidance and advice, and local authority development plans and policies.

6.2 Review of The Planning System with Respect to Geothermal Energy

6.2.1 Summary of the Planning Documents Reviewed

The documents reviewed are summarised in Table 6.1. The full planning document review is summarised in Appendix B.

Table 6.1 - Existing Planning Documents Reviewed

Level Document
Acts The Town and Country Planning Act (Scotland) 1997
Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006
Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009
Regulations The Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2008
The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2008
The Town and Country Planning (Hierarchy of Development) (Scotland) Regulations 2009
Guidance Circulars (contain guidance on policy implementation)
Online Renewables Planning Advice Deep Geothermal (March 2012)
National Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) (2010) prepared by Scottish Government, sets out policy on a range of issues.
National Planning Framework 2 (2009) prepared by Scottish Government, sets out a spatial strategy for Scotland's development NPF3 to be prepared by Scottish Government (from autumn 2012).
Regional Structure Plans (Being Replaced)
Local Local Plans (Being Replaced)
Strategic Development Plan Areas Strategic Development Plans ( SDPs) currently being prepared by strategic development planning authorities
Local Local Development Plans ( LDPs) currently being prepared by local development plan planning authorities
Local Supplementary Guidance

Table 6.2 Existing planning legislation in relation to geothermal energy

Level Document Comment
Acts The Town and Country Planning Act (Scotland) 1997 No specific reference to energy / geothermal energy.
Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 Geothermal energy is not referenced within the Act. Energy is referenced wrt development plans.
Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 Addresses energy efficiency, but not specifically geothermal energy.
Regulations The Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 Energy and geothermal energy are not referenced within the Regulations.
The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 Energy and geothermal energy are not referenced within the Regulations.
The Town and Country Planning (Hierarchy of Development) (Scotland) Regulations 2009 Energy and geothermal energy are not referenced within the Regulations.

Table 6.2 summarises the existing planning legislation in relation to geothermal energy.

6.3 Summary of the Review of Existing Planning Legislation (Acts and Regulations)

Table 6.3 Recommended amendments to planning documents

Document Potential / Recommended Amendments
The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 None
Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 A potential change to the Act includes specific reference to geothermal energy. Recommended action includes the application of a change to the Act, through a provision inserted into the Act, which relates specifically to geothermal energy and the requirement for Strategic Development Planning Authorities and Local Development Planning Authorities to acknowledge the potential for geothermal energy development, when preparing their Plans and considering how development in their area should and could occur
Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 None
The Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 None
The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 None
The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 Consider amending to specifically allow specific small-scale geothermal heat energy within permitted development.
Circulars Consider amending Circular 2/2011 to specifically allow specific small-scale geothermal heat energy within permitted development.
Online Renewables Planning - Deep Geothermal (March 2012) Recommended review and amendment (see comments in text).
Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) (2010) A recommended change to SPP is specific reference to geothermal energy as a renewable energy technology to be supported by local authorities to respond to energy generation requirements and climate change targets. It is recommended that Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) is amended and updated to include specific reference to geothermal energy. Reference should be included within paragraphs 182-195, which relates to renewable energy.
National Planning Framework It is recommended that National Planning Framework ( NPF) is amended by means of the review of NPF3. Geothermal energy should be highlighted within NPF3 as a source of energy generation which can contribute to national energy use from renewable sources targets.
Structure Plans, Strategic Development Plans and Local Plans It is recommended that specific reference to geothermal energy is addressed through the cyclical review process or in current emerging plans.

6.3.1 Acts and Regulations

It is considered that the Acts and Regulations have been drafted in a broad-enough manner to incorporate geothermal energy without amendment.

6.3.2 The Hierarchy Regulations 2009

The Town and Country Planning (Hierarchy of Development) (Scotland) Regulations 2009, the 'Hierarchy Regulations', classify developments into a hierarchy of three categories:

  • National Developments;
  • Major Developments; and
  • Local Developments.

Geothermal energy has not, to date, been classified as a National Developments under the National Planning Framework ( NPF), see below.

In addition, geothermal energy developments are unlikely to be classified as 'Major Developments':

Class 1 - Schedule 1 Developments - those that require an EIA. This is unlikely to apply to the vast majority of geothermal energy developments (see Section 5.0 - The Environmental Regulatory Regime review). Geothermal development sites in England have reportedly deliberately been kept below 0.5Ha to avoid the requirement for an EIA.

Class 4 - The minimum threshold for electricity generation is 20MW. This is unlikely to apply to geothermal energy developments, particularly in the near future) as generation capacities are likely to be lower. The current largest planned scheme in south-west England at United Downs at Redruth in Cornwall has a projected power output of 10MW. SKM have predicted the power output of a conceptual geothermal demonstrator project in north-east Scotland to be <1MW.

Class 9 - Includes all other developments with a site area >2Ha or structure footprint of >5,000m2. This is unlikely to apply to the vast majority of geothermal energy developments as the surface footprint is relatively small.

Other Classes - are unlikely to apply to geothermal energy developments

It is therefore considered that, in the main, individual geothermal energy developments will therefore be classified as Local Developments under the regulations. It is considered that, dependent on uptake, geothermal energy may be become of national significance as an energy source in the future.

From the point of view of encouraging geothermal energy developments, being classified as Local Developments has the advantage that they would not be subject to the more onerous requirements in the planning process that apply to National Development, such as the Proposal of Application Notice ( PAN) procedure.

A key challenge is including and promoting geothermal energy, classified as 'Local Developments', at national planning policy level.

6.4 Review of Existing Planning Guidance and Advice

6.4.1 Circulars

The Circular relating to renewable energy for non-domestic microgeneration (Circular 2/2011) defines permitted development in relation to ground source heat pump ( GSHP) systems but deeper geothermal energy is not covered. The permitted development rights are only for the buried or immersed pipework, meaning that the heat exchanger unit must be sited within an existing structure.

Strictly ground source heat is derived from warming of the near-surface by solar energy, which only extends a few metres into the ground. Where boreholes are used to collect or dissipate heat in a GSHP system they often extend to depths of >100m (to usually <200m) and there is a transition into shallow geothermal energy. As these systems are generally closed loop systems the impact is considered to be low.

It is also apparent that small-scale geothermal heat energy could be incorporated in a similar way with buried wellheads and pipework and all above ground plant (most likely incorporating a heat pump) within buildings.

The Scottish Government may wish to consider further amending the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 and amend Circular 2/2011 to specifically allow small-scale geothermal heat energy within permitted development in a similar manner to GSHP systems.

6.4.2 Advice

The Scottish Government provides a range of advice on different subjects and in different forms, including Guides, Letters from the Chief Planner, Design Guidance, Planning Advice Notes, online renewables planning advice (which replaced PAN45).

6.4.3 Online Renewables Planning Advice on Deep Geothermal Energy

The online renewables planning advice is primarily aimed at providing advice to planning authorities. It suggests areas of focus, opportunities within planning processes for deep geothermal to be considered, it identifies typical planning considerations, provides technical information and links to useful resources. A concern expressed by planning officers attending the project stakeholder workshop was a lack of knowledge and experience in geothermal energy. It is important therefore for the advice to be comprehensive and accurate.

This has been reviewed as part of this study and is considered to provide a useful basis. It is recommended that it should be amended to provide more specific advice, to reflect the better understanding of available resource now available and differentiate clearly between shallower heat-only schemes (the likely future majority of schemes) and deeper power and heat schemes.

The following are suggested changes that could be incorporated in a review of the online advice:

'Snapshot'

  • It is recommended that the following is highlighted in the document following the review:
  • The terminology should be updated to reflect the main types of geothermal energy resource as 'hydrothermal' (from groundwater) and 'petrothermal' (from hot rock). The majority of resources developed will be hydrothermal;
  • Consider redefining definition of 'deep' geothermal;
  • The clear differences, including the scale differences within, including between heat-only and heat and power schemes;
  • That there is much greater potential for development of heat-only schemes, that the majority of schemes will be heat-only and therefore development of these is likely to be more widespread;
  • That the development of heat and power schemes in Scotland is some way off;
  • That the surface development for geothermal energy is relatively small; and

Suggested areas of focus for planning authorities:

  • Planning authorities should review the available geothermal resources (this should be made available to planning authorities as GIS layers following the publication of this study);
  • Planning authorities should review the heat mapping for their area to identify areas of heat demand or identify areas / locations of known heat demand (if heat mapping is not yet available for their area);
  • Planning authorities should then consider land use opportunities and constraints within areas identified as having both geothermal resource and heat demand;
  • Planning authorities should consider opportunities for developing heat networks based on geothermal and in conjunction with other sources of heat and / or power; and
  • The Scottish Government should provide more detailed advice on assessing deep geothermal planning applications and on key consultees.

Opportunities within planning processes for Planning Authorities

  • Monitoring and Main Issues Report ( MIR) - the advice should be revised in cognisance of the resources information resulting from this study;
  • Spatial planning
    • the focus should be on matching heat resource, demand and land use opportunities;
    • Consider revising terminology from 'heat mains' to the broader term 'heat networks';
    • Note potential for integration with other sources of heat and / or power, e.g. CHP plants;
  • Draft development plan policy - consider mentioning heat networks;
  • Information for planning applications;
    • Further advice should be provided on developing supporting guidance notes as there is a generally low level of knowledge within planning authorities; and
    • Note that it is very unlikely that the generating capacity of future geothermal power plants will be greater than 20MW
  • Pre-application - currently there is no requirement for pre-planning consultation but it should be encouraged;
  • Determination of planning applications - no comments.

Technical information for deep geothermal

  • Re-define 'deep' geothermal, and thereby also shallow geothermal, as being 200m depth;
  • The geothermal terminology should be updated to reflect the main types of geothermal energy resource as 'hydrothermal' (from groundwater) and 'petrothermal' (from hot rock). The majority of resources developed will be hydrothermal;
  • Recognise the gradation with depth from GSHP-type developments, into schemes with geothermal source and a heat pump (heat only), direct geothermal heat source only (heat only) and then deeper heat and power type developments;
  • Note that Enhanced Geothermal Systems in very deep petrothermal sources is in its infancy of development. Suitable heat resources at depth have not been sufficiently defined to date in Scotland to locate such schemes. This may change in the future with investment in exploration of the resource;
  • Suitable locations - refer to the potential resources mapping being undertaken as part of this study;
  • Physical works - provide information on typical surface site extents and surface infrastructure required during exploration and during operation and decommissioning;

Typical planning considerations in determining planning applications for deep geothermal

  • Note that drilling for the deepest schemes (>1km) are likely to be 24 hours per day but that these schemes will be relatively infrequent;
  • Note that emissions from modern geothermal plants (including steam) are likely to be very low. Geothermal plants are very quiet and should not produce odours;
  • Once constructed, access to the geothermal site will generally be for maintenance purposes only with few deliveries required;
  • Change terminology from 'waterway' to the 'water environment', and both surface and groundwater needs to be considered;
  • Note that stimulation (hydraulic fracturing) is very unlikely to be used in the vast majority of geothermal developments and only for the deepest EGS projects in the future. The risk of induced seismic activity does exist and would need to be adequately addressed, including through risk assessment, by the developer. Note the depth of stimulation and therefore the risks are relatively low for geothermal projects; and
  • Generally geothermal schemes will have a relatively low landscape and visual impact and some items of plant can be located below ground level.

References

  • Update the references to refer to this study and recent work by SKM for Scottish Enterprise ( SKM, 2012b).

6.5 National Planning Framework ( NPF)

National Planning Framework 2 highlights the key challenges and issues relating to energy and renewable energy. However, the Framework does not make specific reference to geothermal energy and it has not, to date, been classified as a National Development(s) under the NPF.

Part 3 of NPF2 highlights Key Challenges for Scotland, including Energy, specifically highlighting:

  • Section 25 "Concerns about the implications for future energy prices and long-term security of supply. Addressing these challenges will demand profound changes in the way we produce, distribute and use energy over the coming decades.";
  • Section 26 "committing to deriving 20% of the energy it uses from renewable sources by 2020. The Scottish Government supports this objective and has in place its own, higher target for electricity generated from renewable sources. It also wants to see continued improvements in energy efficiency; the development of technologies which derive clean energy from fossil fuels; the harnessing of renewable sources of heat; and decentralised energy production, including local heat and power schemes and micro-generation."

Geothermal energy is well suited to meeting these key challenges, particularly as:

  • a renewable source of heat;
  • provides decentralised energy production;
  • can be readily incorporated in local heat and power schemes; and
  • micro-generation

Part 5 of NPF2 (Infrastructure) discusses Renewable Energy. Section 144 states the requirement to derive a higher proportion of Scotland's energy requirements for heating from renewable sources. Geothermal energy is a source of renewable heat.

Section 145 states the Government's commitment to a growing renewable energy mix and specifically mentions offshore wind, wave, and tidal energy, and biomass. It does not specifically mention geothermal energy. It also states the Government's commitment to establishing Scotland as a leading location for the development of renewable energy technology. If promoted, there are opportunities for geothermal energy as part of the renewable energy mix, particularly from low temperature resources to be a key part of this technology.

Section 146 deals with the growing and various contributions from renewable energy technologies and notes that a specific strategy for the development of marine renewable energy is being prepared. It is recommended that the Scottish Government should develop a similar strategy for the development of geothermal renewable energy.

Section 147 notes that some renewable energy technologies have a strong spatial dimension, i.e. they require a large area. Geothermal energy in particular has a small surface spatial dimension which reduces its spatial impact.

Section 149 notes the valuable contribution that small-scale renewable energy projects can make, the fact they can play a vital role in supporting the sustainable development of remote rural and island communities in particular and could cumulatively make a significant contribution to the development of a more decentralised pattern of energy generation. Geothermal energy is well suited to decentralised small-scale renewable energy provision.

Section 151 in relation to Baseload Power Stations notes the variable output of some renewable sources of energy. Geothermal power production is almost unique amongst renewable technologies in being able to provide baseload.

Section 163 in relation to Heat recognises the potential to derive more heat for domestic, business and industrial purposes from sources such as ground, water and air source heat pumps and the commitment to building a commercially viable and diverse heat industry. Geothermal energy is another and greater source for heat suited to heating multiple dwellings or business premises, or industrial use.

Section 164 regarding Decentralised Production including encouraging community and household heat and power generation, the decentralisation of generation capacity and the development of local heat networks. Section 165 states that Planning authorities have an important role in facilitating more decentralised patterns of energy generation and supply and also that they should take account of the potential for developing heat networks when preparing development plans and considering major development proposals. Geothermal energy could play a key role in heat (and possibly power) generation and is ideal for supplying baseload heat to heat networks.

As discussed above, individual geothermal energy developments are likely to be classified as Local Developments due to their scale. It is considered that, dependent on uptake, geothermal energy may be become of national significance as an energy source in the future but it may not be appropriate to classify it as such at present.

Geothermal energy fits very well with the Scottish Government's renewable energy aspirations and commitments, particularly in relation to sources of renewable heat and de-centralised energy generation. Heat-only geothermal developments are ideal for co-locating in or near residential, commercial or industrial development as they are unobtrusive and have a compact surface footprint In the future, geothermal energy may also be able to contribute to electricity production, and the siting of these is less critical as electricity can be readily transmitted but it would be advantageous to also have a use for the heat output.

The NPF3 main issues report is currently under consultation. It is recommended that geothermal energy is specifically included in NPF3.

A key challenge is including and promoting geothermal energy, classified as 'Local Developments', at national planning policy level.

6.6 Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) (2010)

The consolidated Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) is intended by the Scottish Government to provide a concise, clear and focused statement of national planning policy. SPP is currently being reviewed by the Scottish Government.

Renewable energy is referenced in detail with the current SPP, however, it does not currently make specific reference to geothermal energy.

An outcome of the project stakeholder workshop for this study (including representation from planning officers from various planning authorities) was that current planning applications can only be dealt with under existing planning policies and to deal with primary planning impacts in terms of policy context requires strategic level support - there is currently a perceived lack of policy coverage.

It is considered that changes to planning policy in relation to promoting geothermal energy would give greater planning certainty. This would assist in de-risking potential geothermal energy projects and therefore encourage investment.

It is therefore recommended that the Scottish Government should consider specifically including geothermal energy at national planning policy level in the updated SPP currently under consultation. This could include a statement on a presumption favour of geothermal developments.

6.7 Structure Plans, Strategic Development Plans and Local Plans

Structure Plans set out long term visions and policies for the development of land within planning authority areas. They provide a broad framework for Local Plans, which contain more detailed and site specific policies. The two plans together form the Development Plan. For the city regions of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Structure Plans are being replaced under the new planning system by Strategic Development Plans ( SDPs).

The Structure Plans and / or emerging SDPs for Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, Fife, Glasgow and West Lothian were reviewed as these areas are among those with geothermal energy resource potential. None of the Structure Plans or SDPs refers specifically to geothermal energy, with the exception of the Mid-Fife Local Plan.

The Mid-Fife Local Plan Policy I1 provides guidance in relation to Renewable Energy including the following references to geothermal energy:

"Proposals to abstract geothermal energy from groundwater and other sources will be supported throughout Fife provided that the drilling, engineering and abstraction operations do not:

f. cause unacceptable impacts on the built and natural environment, and residential and other sensitive properties; and

g. do not cause pollution of groundwater."

The Mid-Fife Local Plan is a good example of a supportive local planning policy. It is recommended that similar policies on geothermal energy are adopted by other planning authorities in the next review of their Structure Plans, Strategic Development Plans and Local Plans.

The Glasgow City Plan 2 energy policy (Policy ENV15), which primarily relates to new buildings requires the following:

  • ".....consider the installation options available for a low and/or zero carbon decentralised energy source, including consideration of a shared resource with a neighbouring development.";
  • "All new developments should consider the installation of micro-generating equipment (see Definition) for the small scale production of heat (less than 45 kilowatt thermal capacity) and/or electricity (less than 50 kilowatt electrical capacity) from zero or low carbon source technologies, particularly at a domestic level."; and

The Glasgow City Plan 2 energy policy, although it does not specifically make reference to geothermal energy, is useful in that it requires the building developer to consider on site microgeneration using zero and low carbon equipment.

6.8 Geothermal, District Heating and Planning

To achieve renewable heat energy targets and the desired uptake, it may be necessary to require new-build developers to install district heating systems. It may be possible to encourage or incentivise developers to include geothermal energy as the, or part of, the heat source.

6.9 Identification of Required Changes to Planning Documents and Recommendation for Actions

Following the review of the planning documents in relation to geothermal energy, Table 6.3 summarises recommended amendments.

6.10 Conclusions

In relation to national planning policy and achieving the Scottish Government's ambitious targets for renewable/low carbon and decentralised sources of energy, geothermal energy is a good source of renewable and low carbon heat. In the future it may also be a source of power. If promoted correctly, there are opportunities for geothermal energy as part of the renewable energy mix, particularly from low temperature resources to be a key part of this technology.

It is considered that a strategy for the development of geothermal energy is required to focus efforts into key areas.

Geothermal energy is has the following advantages as a source of energy:

  • It has a small surface spatial dimension which reduces its spatial impact;
  • It is well suited to decentralised small-scale renewable energy provision;
  • it is a source for heat suited to heating multiple dwellings or business premises, or industrial use.
  • It could play a key role in heat (and possibly power) generation and is ideal for supplying baseload heat to heat networks.
  • Geothermal power production is almost unique amongst renewable technologies in being able to provide baseload.

Current planning applications can only be dealt with under existing planning policies and to deal with primary planning impacts in terms of policy context requires strategic level support. There is currently a perceived lack of policy coverage. The Scottish Government could consider changes to planning policy in relation to promoting geothermal energy to give greater planning certainty. This would assist in de-risking and therefore encourage investment.

A key challenge is including and promoting geothermal energy, classified as 'Local Developments', at national planning policy level.

Individual geothermal energy developments are likely be classified as Local Developments under the Hierarchy Regulations. It is considered that, dependent on uptake, geothermal energy may be become of national significance as an energy source in the future.

The Mid-Fife Local Plan is a good example of a supportive local planning policy for geothermal energy. It is recommended that similar policies on geothermal energy are adopted by other planning authorities in their emerging Strategic Development Plans and Local Development Plans.

There is a need to communicate positive messages to the public regarding deep geothermal energy, including that heat generated is used locally (as opposed to generating electricity to be used elsewhere) and it is a relative cheap, low-carbon and reliable source of heat energy.

6.11 Recommendations (Policy Options)

The following are the key recommendations:

  • The NPF3 main issues report is currently under consultation and it is recommended that geothermal energy is specifically included in NPF3;
  • It is recommended that the Scottish Government should develop a specific strategy for the development of geothermal energy (similar to the strategy for the development of marine renewable energy);
  • It is recommended that the Scottish Government should consider specifically including geothermal energy at national planning policy level in the revised SPP. This could include a statement on a presumption favour of geothermal developments;
  • To achieve renewable heat energy targets and the desired uptake, it may be necessary to require new-build developers to install district heating systems. It may be possible to encourage or incentivise developers to include geothermal energy as the, or part of, the heat source;
  • Planning Authorities require the expertise to assess geothermal energy applications. The current perceived lack of clarity and specific advice could potentially lead to delay in determination of applications. Supplementary specific planning guidance ( SPG) for deep geothermal energy should be developed;
  • It is recommended online renewables planning advice on deep geothermal is revised to provide more specific advice, reflect the current understanding of available resource, and differentiate clearly between shallower heat-only schemes (the likely future majority of schemes) and deeper power and heat schemes;
  • Circular 2/2011 relates to renewable energy for non-domestic microgeneration. It is recommended that the Scottish Government may wish to consider amending Circular 2/2011 to specifically allow small-scale geothermal heat energy within permitted development in a similar manner to GSHP systems;
  • It is recommended that policies on geothermal energy are adopted by planning authorities in the next review of their Strategic Development Plans and Local Development Plans;
  • Deep geothermal (>200m depth) should be included in current and future reviews of Local Development Plans as the review cycle dictates. Planning Authorities require information on the spatial distribution of both deep geothermal resources and heat demand, so that they can be linked;
  • Table 6.3 summarises the recommended amendments to Planning documents.

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