Daniela Blessent

Universidad de Medellin

Professor of Environmental Engineering

Daniela Blessent graduated from the Politecnico di Torino (Italy) in 2004 in Environmental Engineering. During her studies, she spent one year (2002-2003) at the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne (Switzerland). She obtained a PhD in Earth Sciences in 2009, at Université Laval (Quebec, Canada), with focus on hydrogeological numerical modeling of fractured geological media. She then worked as a professor at Polytechnique de Montreal (Canada) from 2010 to 2012. Since 2013, she has been working at the Universidad de Medellin (Colombia) as professor in the Environmental Engineering department. Her research activities currently benefit from multiple international collaborations, in particular thanks to the international project IGCP636 “Geothermal resources for energy transition”, which is part of the UNESCO International Geoscience Programme. Since January 2020, she is the president of the Colombian Geothermal Association (AGEOCOL).

Geothermal research in Colombia: lessons learned and future perspectives

A research group focused on geothermal energy has been established in 2014 as an initiative between Universidad de Medellín (Colombia) and Institut national de la recherche scientifique (Québec, Canada). Seven years later the group has been awarded the Best Research Programme of the Universidad de Medellín during the X Innovation and Creativity Fair held at the end of September 2020.

The research work started with the assessment of the geothermal potential of a study area close to the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. Groundwater and heat transfer numerical modeling was used as a tool to simulate temperature at depth, based on thermal and hydraulic measurements of rock properties. An hydrogeochemical study has also been started recently. The studies conducted provided new insights into the construction of conceptual and numerical models for fractured geological media.

Perception of geothermal energy has also been analyzed through online and face-to-face surveys conducted in two areas of the country, in the Nevado del Ruiz and Azufral volcanoes. Feasibility of shallow geothermal energy installations have also started to be investigated.

The performed activities allowed the creation of a solid research network, fostering participation in geosciences of young researchers, students, and women. The extensive participation of scientists from several countries, the enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students, and the numerous outcomes highlight the key role of international collaboration and visibility for Colombia, where geothermal development is at its beginning.

To support the development of the geothermal industry in Colombia, it is important to promote outreach activities and to include courses on geothermal energy in both geoscience and engineering academic programs, since the geothermal field is multidisciplinary and it requires a proper communication among different disciplines, including social sciences.