GEOL30380 Geomaterials and Geoenergy

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module outlines the processes leading to the formation and behaviour of economic geomaterials and energy resources. Geomaterials covered include groundwater and the sources of metallic and non-metallic resources. Geoenergy resources covered include coal, conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons, wind, hydroelectric, ocean, solar, geothermal and nuclear energy. The use of and demand for geomaterials and geoenergy are explored, and strategies for transitioning to a clean energy future, including carbon capture and storage technologies, are discussed.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1) Describe the properties of aquifers, their performance and threats to their water quality.
2) Explain the earth processes and conditions necessary for the formation of economically viable fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable geoenergy resources.
3) Outline the role played by geoscientists in the discovery and exploitation of geomaterial and geoenergy resources, and in the disposal of their waste products (nuclear waste; carbon capture and storage)
4) Discuss how a variety of types of economic mineral deposit form, in theory and by observation of rocks and thin sections, and describe the factors influencing their economic viability.

Indicative Module Content:


Lecture 1: Global trends in energy use (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
Introduction to the Hydrocarbons Section. Global Energy Production and Consumption trends: Oil, Gas, Coal. Nuclear. Hydroelectric, wind, solar. Biofuels. Projected global energy demands. The sustainable development scenario. Carbon emission reduction. The role of Carbon Capture and Storage.

Lecture 2: Sedimentary basins and the formation of petroleum (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
Type and origin of sedimentary basins: Foreland basins; Rift basins (Syn-rift and post-rift stages); Passive margins. Burial of sediment: Mechanical compaction; Pore pressure and over pressure; Over pressure and rock fracture; Rock fracture and geofluid redistribution. Chemical composition of oil and gas. The carbon cycle and formation of hydrocarbons: Diagenesis and the formation of kerogen types; Catagenesis and the formation of hydrocarbons.

Lecture 3: Conventional reservoirs and conventional petroleum systems (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
Oil and gas reservoir types. Pressure-depth relationships in a reservoir: Capillary pressure (fluid property); Capillary threshold pressure (rock property); Hydrocarbon saturation. Hydrocarbon trapping: Buoyancy-controlled geometrical spill; Capillary-pressure controlled leakage. Physical properties of reservoir rocks and seals: Porosity, permeability, Capillary threshold pressure. Darcy’s law. The conventional petroleum System: Stratigraphic necessities (Source rock, reservoir rock, seal); Geometrical necessity (Trap); Geofluid processes: (Maturation, migration, trapping, retention).

Lecture 4. Petroleum Systems of the North Sea and Ireland (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
The North Sea: The Permo-Triassic Rotliegend Play; The Jurassic Brent Play; Cretaceous chalk and Paleogene deep-water clastics plays. Creaming Curves: Sectors of the UK continental shelf; Norwegian sectors. Exploration offshore Ireland: Kinsale Head Gas field. Slyne and Erris basins. Porcupine Basin.

Lecture 5: Exploration, appraisal and development of conventional oil and gas fields (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
Phase of a project: Access, Exploration, appraisal, development, production, decommissioning. Seismic reflection data: 3D seismic, Ocean bottom seismic; Seismic processing, Amplitude extraction, Direct hydrocarbon indicators. Oil well drilling: The drill rig and mud circulation system; Cuttings and coring; Wireline logging; Directional drilling and logging while drilling; Well testing. Reservoir production: Pressure depletion, solution gas drive / gas cap expansion, water-flooding; Reservoir heterogeneity, connectivity; Recovery factors.

Lecture 6: Unconventional oil and gas (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
Conventional vs. Unconventional oil and gas. Shale Gas and Shale Oil. Tight Gas and Tight Oil. Other unconventional Gas: Coalbed methane; Sour Gas; Methane Hydrates. Other unconventional Oil: Heavy oil; Extra Heavy Oil, Bitumen; Oil Shale. Oil and gas supply cost curves.

Lecture 7 Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
Carbon Capture and Storage in the Sustainable Development Scenario, 2020 –2070. Carbon Capture and Storage historical volumes. Capture by industry sector. Sequestration by geological storage type. Subsurface CO2 sequestration options. CCS projects and processes: Example 1: Sleipner, 1996 -present. Example 2: Weyburn, 2000 -present. Example 3: Permian Basin oilfields, 1980s -present. Example 4: Northern lights project, 2020 –present. Global Storage capacity estimates.

Lecture 8: Hydrogeology: some physical aspects, part 1. (Dr Conrad Childs)
Introduction to principles of groundwater. Hydrological cycle and controls on water table elevation and fluctuation. Overview of aquifer types; confined and unconfined aquifers. Distinction between matrix and fracture porosity. Aquifer property definition including porosity, specific yield, hydraulic conductivity and storativity. Application of Darcy’s Law to calculate rates of flow in confined and unconfined aquifers.

Lecture 9: Hydrogeology: some physical aspects, part 2. (Dr Conrad Childs)
Ground subsidence due to groundwater extraction. Pump testing to characterize aquifer properties. Patterns of groundwater flow; flow lines and equipotential lines. Topographic and geological control on groundwater flow and scales of flow systems. Salt water intrusion in coastal aquifers. Controlling and remediation of groundwater.

Lecture 10: Hydrogeology. (Mr David Ball, Consultant Hydrogeologist)
An introduction to practical hydrogeology by a professional hydrogeologist of over 40 years’ experience. The lecture covers topics including from how to drill and case a well for a domestic water supply in Ireland to finding water in the Sahara.

Lecture 11: Renewable energy 1. (Prof. Frank McDermott)
What is renewable energy? H2020 targets. Where does the wind come from? (incident solar radiation, geostrophic winds, local winds and surface winds). Wind energy potential in Ireland. Harvesting wind energy onshore and offshore. Wind power capacity and production in Ireland. Predictability of wind power. Critical metals for wind energy. Energy storage. Pumped storage plants (Turlough Hill) and dammed power stations (Ardnacrusha power plant).

Lecture 12: Renewable energy 2. (Prof. Frank McDermott)
Ocean energy potential. Technologies to harness waves’ energy (WEC). Wave energy potential and test sites in Ireland (Carnegie Wave Energy Project). Technologies to harness tidal energy. Technological barriers to overcome. Ocean energy in Ireland. Global insolation patterns (potential of solar energy). Thermal energy. Electricity production (photovoltaics and concentrated solar power). Energy storage. Environmental impacts (production of panels, critical metals). Emerging technologies. Solar resource in Ireland. Integrated energy systems.

Lecture 13: Nuclear and geothermal energy. (Prof. Frank McDermott)
Distinction between shallow and deep geothermal energy sources. Low- and high-enthalpy geothermal sources. Distribution of heat producing elements in the Earth’s crust. Exploitation of geothermal energy in high- and low-enthalpy settings. Potential geohazards associated with geothermal energy exploitation. Advantages of geothermal in an integrated energy system that have high levels of intermittent renewables. Fundamentals of nuclear fission and nuclear power plants. Nuclear waste, inventories and storage options. Update on nuclear fusion research.

Lecture 14: Introduction to ore deposits; hydrothermal fluids. (Dr Koen Torremans)
Ore deposits – ore and industrial minerals; geological processes concentrating metals; reserves and resources; factors affecting economic viability; evidence for the existence of hydrothermal fluids; chemical and physical properties of hydrothermal fluids in the upper crust; fluid inclusion analysis; causes of metal solubility and deposition; hydrothermal alteration; isotopic evidence for the origin of hydrothermal fluid components.

Lecture 15: Irish gold and orogenic gold deposits. (Dr Koen Torremans)
Gold deposits in the Dalradian of Co. Tyrone – geological setting, paragenesis, age, origin of mineralizing fluids and gold; orogenic gold deposits worldwide – isotopic evidence for fluid sources; amphibolite facies metamorphism and gold sources.

Lecture 16: Granite-related tin-tungsten and volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits. (Dr Koen Torremans)
The Cornish polymetallic vein deposits: mining history, vein types, origin of fluid, wolframite mineralization; distribution of tin-tungsten granite deposits and causes of metal enrichment. Kuroko-type VMS deposit characteristics: the Avoca deposits as an ancient example; black smokers and Cyprus-type VMS deposits; fluid origin and mineral precipitation in VMS deposits.

Lecture 17: Irish-type Carbonate-hosted ore deposits. (Dr Koen Torremans)
The Irish midlands orefield and the distribution of Irish-type zinc-lead deposits; the Navan and Lisheen deposits as examples – geological history, hydrothermal mineralogy, fluid inclusion constraints; models for Irish-type deposit formation.

Lecture 18: Industrial mineral deposits 1. (Dr Koen Torremans)
Definition of industrial minerals; industrial minerals for construction – sand, gravel and crushed rock for aggregate; limestones, lime, cement and concrete; gypsum deposits and plaster; dimension stone; industrial minerals for making glass – industrial sand, feldspar, soda ash, boron and strontium.

Lecture 19: Aluminium and iron ore deposits; Industrial mineral deposits 2. (Dr Koen Torremans)
Chemical weathering and laterites – bauxite as aluminium ore, kaolinite and supergene metal deposits; formation of banded iron formations and their use as iron ores; halite deposits; mineral sands as sources of heavy minerals; the scale of industrial mineral use.

Lecture 20: Rare element ore deposits. (Dr Koen Torremans)
The industrial needs for rare elements; technological change, substitution and predictability of demand; markets for rare elements; the critical elements concept; platinum group element ores; rare earth element ores; pegmatites as sources of rare metals; rare elements extracted from ores of common metals and predictability of supply.


Practicals 1 - 4: The Oil Game. (Assoc. Prof. Tom Manzocchi)
Form teams of oil companies, bid for exploration licenses. Weekly updates of drilling results lead to improved understanding of the prospects. Two plays: reef deposits forming structural traps, and a sub-unconformity stratigraphic trap.

Practical 5: Hydrogeology I. (Dr Conrad Childs)
Construct a contour map of a potentiometric surface from borehole data and evaluate how a producing well will perturb groundwater flow.

Practical 6: Hydrogeology II. (Dr Conrad Childs)
A range of standard hydrogeological formulae are used to calculate groundwater storage, flow and well production in 6 questions based on different input hydrogeological parameters.

Practical 7: Estimating the energy output of a wind turbine. (Frank McDermott)
Use of wind data to estimate energy production of a wind turbine. Evaluate wind turbine power curves. Assess the relationship between wind speed and capacity factor as well as their uncertainties and limitations. Evaluate advantages and disadvantages of wind and solar energy.

Practical 8: Cornish tin-tungsten ores. (Dr Koen Torremans)
Description of Cornish granite-hosted Sn-W veins in hand specimen, and analysis of a virtual microscope thin section, to determine mineralization processes.

Practical 9: Carbonate-hosted Zn-Pb mineralization, Abbeytown. (Dr Koen Torremans)
Description of sphalerite-galena-iron sulphide from the Abbeytown base metal deposit, Co. Sligo, in hand specimen, and analysis of a virtual microscope thin section, to determine mineralization processes.

Practical 10: Rare metal pegmatites, south Leinster. (Dr Koen Torremans)
Description and analysis of spodumene pegmatite hand samples, thin sections and chemical maps, to interpret sequence of crystallization and rare metal enrichment processes.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning






Project Supervision




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Students learn primarily through a series of lectures and practical classes, which are linked so as to reinforce each other, supplemented by recommended reading. A competitive student project is run over several weeks in which students simulate the activities of companies exploring for and seeking to exploit hydrocarbons. The module is assessed partly by continuous assessment of weekly practical work and partly b y an end of semester written exam. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
GEOL20250 - Crystals to Sedimentary Rocks, GEOL30040 - Sedimentary Environments

Geomaterials and Geoenergy (GEOL20170)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Continuous assessment of practical and group project work. Throughout the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Examination: 2-hour end of trimester exam 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Standard conversion grade scale 40% No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive feedback on their practical and project work during classes and in written form on submitted practical and project work. Where appropriate, oral feedback will also be given to the whole class on commonly encountered difficulties.

“Introducing natural resources” by G. Park (2016) – ebook available at:
“Elements of Petroleum Geology” (1st or 2nd Editions) by R. Selley available at 553.28 SEL
“Applied Hydrogeology” (3rd edition) by C.W. Fetter available at 551.49 SET
“Ore deposit geology” by J. Ridley (2013) available at 553.1RID
“Mineral Resources, economics and the environment” by S. Kesler and A. Simon (2015) available at 553KES
Name Role
Dr Conrad Childs Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Tom Manzocchi Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Frank McDermott Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Koen Torremans Lecturer / Co-Lecturer