Inga Berre is ERC recipient number 10,000
As grantee number 10,000 to receive funding from the European Research Council (ERC), Inga Berre will use applied mathematics in order to understand what happens underground when heat is extracted from the Earth's interior.
"Perhaps the most fascinating thing about applied mathematics is that by building effective mathematical models, we can study very complicated processes that we would not otherwise be able to understand," says Professor Berre, who will be starting her new ERC project in August 2021.
Professor Inga Berre at The department of mathematics in December 2020 was awarded the ERC Consolidator Grant for the project «MaPSI» (2021-2026).
Full name: Mathematical and Numerical Modelling of Process-Structure Interaction in Fractured Geothermal Systems.
Interdisciplinary project with experts in physics, geology, mathematical modelling, applied mathematics and computational science.
ERC Concolidator grant holders receive up to 2 million euros, over 5 years.
Out of 10,000 ERC grants, 140 have been awarded to researchers at Norwegian institutions. 33 have been awarded researchers at the University of Bergen.
10,000 ERC grantees
On 6 May the European Research Council (ERC) celebrated reaching a major milestone; 10,000 ERC grantees. During the celebration, it was announced that grant recipient number 10,000 was UiB mathematician Professor Inga Berre, who was awarded a Consolidator Grant in December 2020.
Among the congratulators were the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and President ad interim of the ERC Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, in addition to the EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education & Youth, Mariya Gabriel.
See the online ceremony.
Berre is grateful for this ERC award which has provided her with the opportunity to build up a team for a project in the field of research that she and her colleagues have been developing at the UiB over several years. The project involves mathematical modelling of processes in geothermal systems deep below the ground.
- I am proud that one of our leading researchers is highlighted as ERC grantee number 10,000, says UiB Rector Margareth Hagen, and adds that she looks forward to following Berre's project in the coming years.
Hagen believes that the European Research Council's funding for curiosity-driven, basic research plays a crucial role in the work of strengthening research environments in Europe. Succeeding in applications for ERC grants is an important priority area for UiB.
- Read the article about Inga Berre from ERC here
- Horizon Magazine interview: Why unconventional resources are key to expanding geothermal energy use
Filling knowledge gaps
Under this project, Professor Berre and her research team are seeking to simulate complex processes in geothermal systems and develop new mathematical models. They are aiming to create a clearer picture of the connections between different processes which occur deep below the surface during the development and production of geothermal reservoirs.
If we succeed, our knowledge could be used to utilise these resources in a safe, more efficient way in connection with future energy production.
These involve high-temperature geothermal energy which is extracted by producing hot water which is located several kilometres below the surface. Traditionally, geothermal energy is produced in volcanically or tectonically active areas where deep groundwater reaches temperatures of more than 225 degrees Celsius at depths of less than 2,000 meters, but there is considerable potential for increasing resources that can be recovered economically.
"This can be done by pumping water down into the reservoir in order to improve conditions for the circulation of water that can absorb heat and is produced by production wells, and also aim for higher temperatures," she explains.
Everything is connected
"One challenge involved in studying underground processes is that everything is connected to everything else. “There is no simple causal relationship that we can explain rationally, but something that needs to be modelled and calculated," says Professor Berre.
"For example, underground cracks are affected by water pressure and temperature changes, which in turn affect flow in the reservoir, which then affect how much energy can be recovered.”
According to Professor Berre there is a lot we do not understand about the interactions which take place between these processes and our current technological solutions are inadequate. Consequently, one important part of the project involves creating mathematical models and good numerical solution methods implemented in open codes, which can be both reviewed and adopted by the international research community.
Inge Berre received flowers in the University Aula during the celebration.
Contribution to green restructuring
This ERC project has a theoretical nature, but understanding how we can extract this type of energy more effectively and more sustainably could be the next step in being able to make an important contribution towards the International community’s green restructuring plans.
"If we succeed, our knowledge could be used to utilise these resources in a safe, more efficient way in connection with future energy production. For example, if we manage to reach higher temperatures and energy densities, we could multiply the production of energy from each production well when compared to traditional geothermal production," she says.
Basic research driven by curiosity
"The ERC has become one of the most important agencies for promoting basic research driven by curiosity, both nationally and in Europe," maintains Professor Berre.
In my project, "high risk, high gain" means that it is by no means certain that we will achieve everything we want. What we are going to work on is complicated and we do not know exactly what challenges will emerge.
She points out that ERC grants are awarded to researchers at various stages of their careers in the form of Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. Professor Berre also appreciates the fact that the ERC places emphasis on good research ideas, creativity and interdisciplinarity, and that the grants that it awards for projects allow for a certain amount of risk in research, through its so-called "high risk, high gain" profile.
High risk, high gain
The high risk, high gain aspect which characterises ERC awards allows for the development of groundbreaking research that could potentially yield major results, although such results cannot be taken for granted.
"In my project, "high risk, high gain" means that it is by no means certain that we will achieve everything we want. What we are going to work on is complicated and we do not know exactly what challenges will emerge. Naturally, we have ideas and theories, but there are no guarantees that we will find the answers we are looking for," says Professor Berre, adding:
“Not knowing that lies ahead is also very exciting for us as researchers. This is definitely not routine work, but it will be great to get started on the project and make progress as we go along.”
Start-up in the autumn
Inga Berre with students and partners at the The department of mathematics. From the left: Therese Romslo Saltskår, Hau Trung Dang, Jan M. Nordbotten, Shin Irgens Banshoya, Eirik Keilegavlen, Inga Berre, Kundan Kumar, Sæunn Halldorsdottir, Jakub W. Both, Ingrid Jacobsen, Florin Radu, Ivar Stefansson.
Work is now underway in order to assemble the research team. With the appointment of three PhD candidates, a postdoctoral fellow and a researcher, the team will be complete. Professor Berre says work on the project will commence just after the summer. The work to be undertaken will involve both inhouse colleagues at UiB and international partners.
In order to achieve the objectives of the project, Professor Berre emphasises the importance of interdisciplinarity. The team that will be solving these challenges will include experts in physics, geology, mathematical modelling, applied mathematics and computational science.
Professor Berre also heads the new VISTA Centre at UiB, where researchers will be finding out more about underground deformation which can lead to earthquakes, etc. The scientific environment at the centre will also benefit from the ERC project, and vice versa.
"When we submit our final report on the project, I hope and believe that we will be left with both good results and many new questions. During the project, we will be training good PhD candidates, and perhaps some of them will subsequently contribute towards other international projects based on our findings," concludes Professor Berre.
ERC is supporting European research and now has funded 10 000 grantees.