Shallow subsurface thermal structure onshore Denmark: temperature, thermal conductivity and heat flow

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Available measured temperatures and thermal conductivities covering Danish onshore areas to a depth of about 300 m have been compiled and analysed. Temperature data from 236 borehole sites, including 56 boreholes with detailed temperature profiles, are applied together with thermal conductivities mea- sured on samples collected at 34 well-characterised outcrops and on core material from 20 boreholes.
Significant thermal variations in the shallow subsurface are observed. At a depth of 50 m, a mean temperature of 8.9 ± 0.8°C is found, close to the mean annual surface temperature. Higher mean values of 9.7 ± 1.1°C found at 100 m and 11.6 ± 2.2°C at 200 m reflect a general increase of temperatures with depth. In contrast to the assumption commonly held, we observe significant lateral variations both lo- cally and regionally. At a depth of 100 m, temperatures vary between 7.3 and 13.0°C across Denmark, and at 250 m between 9.6 and 17.9°C. Mean values of the thermal conductivities lie within a range of 0.6–6 W/(m·K) measured water- saturated at laboratory conditions. The majority of values are within the interval of 1–3 W/(m·K) and show a strong correlation with lithology. The content of quartz and the rock porosity (the content of water) are found to be two main factors controlling the observed variations. Characteristic temperature gradients are in the range 1–4°C/100 m. Following Fourier’s law of heat conduction, a clear correlation is observed between temperature gradients and thermal conductivities of different lithologies. Intervals of quartz-rich sand deposits with high thermal conductivity show low temperature gradients, chalk and limestone intervals with intermediate conductivity display intermediate gradients, while sections with fine grained clay deposits of low thermal conductivity show high gradient values. A correlation analysis provides an estimate of regional shallow heat flow of 37 ± 5 mW/m2, consistent with local, classically determined heat-flow values from shallow borehole data. However, it is significantly below deep background heat flow, and this is believed to be caused by long-term paleoclimatic effects.
The shallow subsurface thermal regime across the Danish area is largely controlled by thermal conduction. Only locally, and in rare cases, do we observe temperature perturbations due to ground- water migration. In addition to general geoscientific purposes, our results are important for several applications including exploitation of shallow geothermal energy and the use of the subsurface for heat storage and cooling purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29–52
Number of pages24
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of Denmark
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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