Numerical modelling of geothermal borehole heat exchanger systems




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


The large proportion of energy used in the built environment has made improving energy efficiency in buildings, in particular their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, a policy objective for reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions nationally and internationally. Ground source heat pump (GSHP) systems, due to their high coefficient of performance (COP) and low CO2 emissions are consequently, receiving increasing attention. This work is concerned with the modelling of borehole heat exchangers (BHEs), the commonest form of ground heat exchangers found in GSHP systems. Their careful design is critical to both the short timescale and long timescale performance of geothermal heat pump systems. Unlike conventional components of HVAC systems, BHEs cannot be designed on the basis of peak load data but require 3 application of dynamic thermal models that are able to take account of the heat transfer inside the borehole as well as the surrounding ground. The finite volume method has been applied to develop a dynamic three-dimensional (3D) model for a single BHE and BHE arrays. The multi-block boundary fitted structured mesh used in this model allows the complex geometries around the pipes in BHEs and the surrounding ground around the borehole to be represented exactly. The transport of the fluid circulating along the pipe loop has been simulated explicitly in this model. The ground underneath the borehole has also been represented in this model. Validation of the 3D model has been carried out by reference to analytical models of borehole thermal resistance and fluid transport in pipes, as well as experimental data. In this work, the 3D numerical model has been applied to investigate the three-dimensional characteristics of heat transfer in and around a BHE at both short and long timescales. By implementing a two-dimensional (2D) model using the same numerical method and comparing the simulation results from the 3D and 2D models, the most significant three-dimensional effects have been identified and quantified. The findings have highlighted some of the limitations of 2D models, and based on the findings, methods to improve the accuracy of a 2D model have been suggested and validated. Furthermore, the 3D and 2D finite volume models have been applied to simulate an integrated GSHP system and their effects on overall system performance predictions have been investigated. The 3D numerical model has also been applied to examine thermal interactions within BHE arrays and to evaluate the assumptions of the line source model and their implications in the analysis of thermal response test data.



geothermal energy, borehole heat exchanger, numerical modelling



Research Institute