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The origin of the geothermal anomaly identified in the Barcelona underground

(NE Spain): Future perspectives of this urban geothermal resource

Miguel Ángel Marazuela 123 ; Enric Vázquez-Suñé 12; Rotman Criollo 124; Alejandro García-Gil 5
1 Institute of Enviromental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA), CSIC. Jordi Girona 18, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
2 Associated Unit: Hydrogeology Group (UPC-CSIC)
3 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (DECA), Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña (UPC). Jordi Girona 1-3, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
4 Barcelona Cicle de l’Aigua SA (BCASA), del’Hacer 16, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
5 Geological Survey of Spain (IGME), Manuel Lasala 44, 9°B, 50006 Zaragoza, Spain

In a typical framework, the velocity of the groundwater

INTRODUCTION flow is slow enough to equilibrate in each depth with
the temperature of regional geothermal gradient.
However, the presence of fracturing planes can
During the drilling of the Barcelona Metro L9 line,
significantly increase the velocity in these planes. This
around the Fondo station of Santa Coloma de
causes the flow to be fast enough so that there is no
Gramanet, a geothermal anomaly was detected. This
time for the groundwater to equilibrate at each depth
anomaly is attributed to a rise of deep groundwater
with the regional geothermal gradient, giving place to a
through some tectonic structures, in a similar way to
geothermal anomaly.
other geothermal zones of Catalonia (e.g. El Vallés).
The result of the heat transport model allows to
Due to the economic benefits of geothermal energy to
demonstrate this hypothesis. It is observed that in the
society, studying and understanding the dynamic of the
recharge zones where the flow is downwards, the
geothermal system developed in the surroundings of
temperatures are lower than expected, according to the
Santa Coloma de Gramanet is of great interest, as well
geothermal gradient, and that in the zones of lower
as, assessing its potential for future exploitation of the
FIGURE 2: Geological setting (Modified from Vázquez-Suñé et al., 2016).
topography, the geothermal anomaly causes a
significant increase in the temperature near the surface
In order to study the feasibility of a future energy (Figure 4).
exploitation of the geothermal resource, a study is
being undertaken at local and regional scale. In the
NUMERICAL MODELLING Future works will try to improve the knowledge of this
anomaly incorporating the density-dependent effects of
regional study, whose first results are presented in this
For the numerical modelling, the commercial code temperature and salinity differences in order to
work, the objective is to understand the hydrothermal
FEFLOW® has been used. This code implements the law evaluate a future exploitation of the resource. It is also
operation of the system on a large scale and to be able
of Darcy in its totally dependent form of density and intended to analyse the effects that this event causes in
to justify the geothermal anomaly identified in the
viscosity, by difference of concentration and the urban environment (e.g. in the underground
Fondo underground station. To achieve this, different
temperature. tunnel).
numerical models of flow and heat transport have been
carried out. The equation of continuity or conservation of mass is
given by the expression: TEMPERATURE [°C]

𝑆 +𝛻·𝒒=0
While the energy balance governing equation for a fluid
The study area is located in NE Spain and encompasses in the porous medium is:
a large part of Santa Coloma de Gramanet and ϕ𝜌𝑓𝑐𝑓 + 1 − ϕ 𝜌𝑠𝑐𝑠 𝑇 + 𝛻 · 𝜌𝑓𝑐𝑓𝑇𝒒 − 𝛻 · λ𝛻𝑇 = 0
Badalona cities, which border Barcelona city in its
Different steady-state numerical models of flow and
north-eastern sector (Figure 1). Geographically, it is
heat transport have been performed with constant
limited by the Sierra de la Marina at NE, by the
density to date. For the modelling of fracturing planes
Mediterranean Sea at SE, and by the River Besós at SW
2D discrete features have been used. In these critical
and NW bounds.
geometries, the mesh reaches a resolution of 10 m,
with 2,650,000 total elements.
FIGURE 4: Resulting temperatures of the 3D heat transport model.
The hydraulic heads resulting from the steady-state
SPAIN flow model (Figure 3) show an important control of the
topography in the groundwater flow, as a consequence
of a higher recharge in the mountains. In these areas, CONCLUSIONS
the flow is downwards while in the areas of lower
elevation the predominant flow is upwards. The • A numerical 3D model of flow has been performed
Mediterranean Sea, the River Besós and the streams, to understand the hydrogeological dynamic of the
are the main groundwater discharge areas. system at regional scale.
• The 3D heat transport model allows explaining the
Mediterranean origin of the geothermal anomaly found in the
Fondo station.
BARCELONA CITY • The initial situation has been established to focus
the next studies at a local level and to be able to
FIGURE 1: Geographical setting.
evaluate the energy potential of the resource and
From the geological point of view, this area is situated its effect on urban infrastructures.
above two different geological entities: (1) the coastal
mountain range, mainly formed by igneous and
metamorphic rocks and (2) the quaternary sediments,
represented by the alluvial of River Besós, some
colluviums that propagate from the mountains and by
- Vazquez-Suñe, E.; Marazuela, M.A.; Velasco, V.; Diviu, M.;
the sedimentary fill of the streams. Of special interest in
Perez-Estaun, A.; Alvarez-Marron, J. (2016): A geological model
this work are the fault planes with NW-SE orientation, for the management of subsurface data in the urban
and the NE-SW porphyry dikes that cross the basement environment of Barcelona and surrounding área. Solid Earth, 7,
and part of the cover deposits (Figure 2). 1317-1329.
FIGURE 3: Resulting hydraulic heads of the 3D groundwater flow model.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Ayuntamiento de Santa Coloma de Gramanet, Consorcio del Besós.