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A computationally efficient pseudo-3D model for the numerical analysis of borehole heat exchangers


Ground-Source Heat Pump (GSHP) systems represent one of the most efficient renewable energy technologies. Their efficiency is highly influenced by the thermal properties of the ground, which are often measured in-situ using the Thermal Response Tests (TRTs). While three-dimensional mechanistic models offer significant advantages over analytical solutions for the numerical interpretation of TRTs, their computational cost represents a limiting factor. Moreover, most of the existing models do not include a comprehensive description of hydrological processes, which have proven to strongly influence the behavior of GSHP. Thus, in this study, we propose a computationally efficient pseudo-3D model for the numerical analysis and interpretation of TRTs. The numerical approach combines a one-dimensional description of the heat transport in the buried tubes of the exchanger with a two-dimensional description of the heat transfer and water flow in the surrounding subsurface soil, thus reducing the dimensionality of the problem and the computational cost. The modeling framework includes the widely used hydrological model, HYDRUS, which can simulate the movement of water, heat, and multiple solutes in variably-saturated porous media. First, the proposed model is validated against experimental data collected at two different experimental sites in Japan, with satisfactory results. Then, it is combined with the Morris method to carry out a sensitivity analysis of thermal properties. Finally, the model is exploited to investigate the influence of groundwater and lithologic heterogeneities on the thermal behavior of the GSHP.

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