The increasing use of subsurface resources resulting from growing energy needs and the growing demand for water and raw materials represent key challenges, requiring a more integrated, efficient and sustainable use of these resources, and the minimisation of any negative health and environmental impacts. Synergies should be nurtured, while conflicts of use should be avoided. This creates at the same time significant opportunities in terms of growth and job creation in advanced technology sectors related to the optimal management and use of the resources. This topic addresses three specific challenges that are highly relevant to the sustainable use of the subsurface: Geo-energy, Groundwater and Raw Materials.
With regards to Geo-energy, information is needed on:
Information on the European subsurface must be available and accessible to society in order to enable the more efficient and sustainable use, more integrated management and spatial planning of the subsurface and the energy resources, groundwater and raw materials it contains. This requires setting up a Pan-European database of harmonised and scientifically robust digital information of the subsurface and its potential uses in the field of geo-energy. The use and implementation of the database should be clearly defined and based on common agreed principles.
Groundwater resources and the subsurface in general are increasingly used for a wide range of applications and therefore under pressure. Groundwater resources are threatened by climate change, pollution and water abstraction. There is a clear need to assess the impact of these drivers on the groundwater resources, their inter-linkage with surface water resources and the groundwater dependent terrestrial and associated aquatic ecosystems including coastal waters; as well as the built environment and rural and urban land use.
Modern technologies allow characterisation and visualisation of groundwater bodies; simulation of potential pathways and groundwater flow velocities; assessment of temporal and spatial trends in groundwater quality and quantity; and assessment of their impact on and interaction with surface waters. Such work both provides and requires information and knowledge of physical, chemical and hydraulic parameters on the European subsurface. These data must be available and easily accessible for all relevant end users to enable proper water resource management and integrated surface and subsurface spatial planning and assessments.
The EU Raw Materials policy aims to ensure the sustainable supply of non-energy raw materials from the EU and global sources, including metallic and industrial minerals, as well as construction materials (dimension stones and aggregates).
Supply from the EU sources requires harmonized and standardized EU level data and information on raw material deposits, as well as on mine-wastes materials - such as by-products, waste rocks, tailings and residues – that could be recycled and re-used. Discovery of new resources needs enhanced information and ore deposit models in exploration and resource assessment to focus increasingly on deeply buried deposits, as well as on mineral deposits on or below the sea-floor.
Such EU level data and information do not exist at the moment. However, there is relevant knowledge of mineral deposits at the Member States level with heterogeneous terminology and reporting standards.
There is also a need for European sustainable sub-surface planning and use that should be based on documentation and spatial databases of deposit and high-potential exploration areas.Scope:
Proposals should pool the necessary resources from national (or regional) research programmes with a view to implementing a joint transnational call for proposals with EU co-funding. The action is targeted at publically funded research performing organisations. Their participation must be mandated by the national/regional authorities in charge (normally the responsible Ministry). The co-funded call for proposals must be based on in-kind contributions from their institutional funding and the beneficiaries will carry out the transnational projects resulting from their call for proposals fully or partially themselves.
GIS-based databases shall be developed with a view to, in the longer term, the operation and maintenance of an integrated database and map of the European underground, its resources (geo-energy, groundwater and raw materials) and its potential uses. Where appropriate, synergies and compatibility with the EPOS research infrastructure is required and will ensure that developed databases, tools and models can serve the largest communities. The database shall be INSPIRE compliant and be compatible with energy minerals data and marine maps (EMODnet) for the proper land planning and use of both surface and sub-surface. Furthermore, databases should have the technical specifications so that they can be potentially hosted by the European Commission.
In the field of geo-energy, the ERA-NET shall collate, interpret and produce reliable and impartial scientific information on geologically based energy resources and potential environmental and climate consequences related to their potential exploitation (e.g. hazards, risks, interference, synergies, conflicts of use), including conventional and unconventional[[The ERA-Net should take account of work done under the action Energy WP2014/2015 B.2.9- Energy Policy Support on Unconventional Oil and Gas (Administrative Arrangement JRC N °33565). Any duplication shall be avoided.]] oil and gas, coal, coal bed methane (CBM), gas hydrates, geothermal resources and uranium, as well as CO2 storage and energy storage (note that certain resources are of local relevance only such as for example gas hydrates and uranium). This includes developing state-of-the-art methodologies and workflows focusing on efficient cross border and integrated pan-European resource mapping and assessment, both onshore and offshore. Specific site investigations are excluded from the ERA-NET scope.
Deliverables should among others comprise online atlases of geo-energy related resources; their properties essential for assessing feasibility, performance and behaviour; maps and cross-sections of main structural elements and faults.
In the field of groundwater, research should develop and enhance the knowledge and the predictive capacity needed to assess the impact of climate change and human activities on groundwater resources and dependent surface waters and ecosystems, and the consequences for groundwater quantitative and chemical status assessed according to the Water Framework and Groundwater directives. High quality models including estimated simulation and projection uncertainties are required tools for decision support systems that allow e.g.:
The ERA-NET will contribute to:
Deliverables shall include:
The Raw Materials specific challenge shall address non-energy non-agricultural raw materials and minerals, and shall address all 28 EU Member States[[Inclusion of Associated Countries is welcome but not mandatory.]].
The ERA-NET shall, through intelligence networking and coordination, enhance and maintain the pan-EU mineral deposits inventory/database, in line with and building on existing activities in the framework of the EIP on Raw Materials. It shall provide economic geology maps of construction materials and industrial and metallic minerals across the EU 28 Member States in a free publicly accessible Internet/web-portal form. The ERA-NET shall also deliver a pilot study identifying targets for general exploration, using innovative technologies and challenging a better understanding of ore genesis and direct exploration at deeper, unexploited levels of the Earth’s crust.
Deliverables shall include:
Improved interoperability of data and information, thus allowing a uniform, unbiased and independent insight in the distribution of identified and prospective geo-energy, groundwater and raw materials resources. Better understanding and management of the water-energy-raw materials nexus through a more integrated and efficient management and exploitation (and more responsible and publicly-accepted use) of subsurface resources for the various uses, while reducing any associated potential impacts and risks.Delegation Exception Footnote:
This activity directly aimed at supporting public-public partnerships with Member States and Associated Countries, technology platforms with industrial partners and earth observation networks is excluded from the delegation to INEA and will be implemented by the Commission services.