Groundwater Cooling of a Supercomputer in Perth, Western Australia: Hydrogeological Simulations and Thermal Sustainability

Heather A Sheldon, Peter M Schaubs, Praveen K Rachakonda, Michael G Trefry, Lynn B Reid, Daniel R Lester, Guy Metcalfe, Thomas Poulet, Klaus Regenauer-Lieb

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Groundwater cooling (GWC) is a sustainable alternative to conventional cooling technologies for supercomputers. A GWC system has been implemented for the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, Western Australia. Groundwater is extracted from the Mullaloo Aquifer at 20.8 °C and passes through a heat exchanger before returning to the same aquifer. Hydrogeological simulations of the GWC system were used to assess its performance and sustainability. Simulations were run with cooling capacities of 0.5 or 2.5 Mega Watts thermal (MWth), with scenarios representing various combinations of pumping rate, injection temperature and hydrogeological parameter values. The simulated system generates a thermal plume in the Mullaloo Aquifer and overlying Superficial Aquifer. Thermal breakthrough (transfer of heat from injection to production wells) occurred in 2.7–4.3 years for a 2.5 MWth system. Shielding (reinjection of cool groundwater between the injection and production wells) resulted in earlier thermal breakthrough but reduced the rate of temperature increase after breakthrough, such that shielding was beneficial after approximately 5 years pumping. Increasing injection temperature was preferable to increasing flow rate for maintaining cooling capacity after thermal breakthrough. Thermal impacts on existing wells were small, with up to 10 wells experiencing a temperature increase ≥ 0.1 °C (largest increase 6 °C).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1831-1849
Number of pages19
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Geothermal
  • Groundwater cooling
  • Numerical modelling
  • Shielding

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