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Research into Ultra-Deep geothermal heat in the Netherlands takes off

The next phase in the exploration of ultra-deep geothermal heat (geothermal energy) has been achieved. To this end, six consortia have signed a cooperation agreement with regard to the implementation of the so-called Exploration Working Programme for Ultra-Deep Geothermal Heat. Within the Green Deal UDG research programme, the government and private parties are working together to investigate the opportunities and possibilities for ultra-deep geothermal heat in the Netherlands.

Photo: AVR

Geothermal heat is a promising technology to make the heat demand in the Netherlands CO2 neutral, in line with the objectives of the climate agreement. Hot water is stored in sand and rock layers in our soil. The deeper in the earth, the warmer it gets. For each kilometre deeper, the temperature rises by 30°C. The energy in this hot water is called geothermal heat or geothermal energy. The water can be pumped up and the heat can be used. Geothermal heat is already used very successfully by the greenhouse horticulture industry, and the share of geothermal heat is growing rapidly. But geothermal heat can also play a role in the heating of homes and buildings. Part of the industrial sector could also use geothermal heat for their heat demand, which requires the extraction of geothermal heat at a greater depth, where the temperatures are higher. Expectations are that geothermal heat will eventually cover about 30 percent of our entire heat demand. Geothermal heat is therefore a relevant technology for achieving climate goals and can contribute to the energy transition.

The Dutch government is committed to the development of geothermal heat and encourages research into the possibilities of geothermal heat at various depths. In June 2017, seven consortia, together with the government, EBN and TNO, signed the so-called Green Deal Ultra-Deep Geothermal Energy (UDG), to increase knowledge about ultra-deep geothermal energy (heat extraction at a depth of more than 4 km) in the Netherlands. The consortium members UDG Leeuwarden, GOLD (Utrecht), UDG Renkum, Geothermal Heat Oost Brabant, UDG Schiedam and UDG Port of Rotterdam are now taking the next step towards continuing together with the so-called Exploration Working Programme and the exploration of ultra-deep geothermal heat in the Netherlands. The Exploration Working Programme involves, among other things, detailed geological research, research into drilling techniques, risk inventory & management and careful environmental management.

The consortia will now invest in further studies into the deep subsurface, during which the structure of the subsurface will be mapped. This can be achieved by (re-)analysing existing data of the subsurface using the latest available techniques and by collecting new data from the subsurface. This requires seismic research, whereby a scan of the subsurface makes the different layers and structures visible. Together with the other geological work and combined with the extensive risk analysis, this will be used as a basis for the decision to take the next step. Preparations for possible drilling will only start in the next phase if it is safe and responsible, and economically viable. It is expected that this decision can be taken by the end of 2019 at the earliest.

Energy in transition

The Port of Rotterdam Authority is committed to combating climate change and wants to play a leading role in the global energy transition. The reduction of CO₂ emissions and efficient use of raw and residual materials are important tasks for the Port Authority.

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