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Belgium could see further geothermal development despite challenges at Balmatt plant

Balmatt geothermal heat and power plant, Belgium (source: VITO)
Alexander Richter 16 Sep 2019

Following a seismic event at the Balmatt geothermal plant, an investigation is under way with adjustments and decisions expected this month. Additional development efforts for combined heat and power plants are announced by private players in Belgium.

In an article in local publication Flanders Today, details about the Balmatt geothermal project and plant by Vito, the Flamish Institute for technological research, are provided and also why the plant and its operation have been set on hold.

Following a 10-year research and development, the plant –  producing power and heat – started operation in June. The plant derives geothermal heat from a depth of 4,000 meters, extracts the heat and re-injects water into the reservoir.

Heating networks of the plant supply heating to the buildings of Vito in Mol and a nearby research center. Vito can also gain from electricity generation. In the future it could provide heating to further businesses and facilities.

In June this year though, there was a set back due to an earthquake measuring 2.1 on the Richter scale. This is described as a result of a “sudden release of pressure that had been increasing as cooled water was re-injected.” Following the incident, there has been a local information meeting and the project was set on pause for a thorough investigation and measures so this will not happen again. It is expected that the analysis of the situation will be ready end of this month. Then it will be decided how to proceed.

There are though additional entrepreneurs invested in a spin-off of Vito, that looks into developing up to 10 geothermal plants in Belgium both for power generation and heating. A first plant could start operational in the next five years in Turnhout. Janssen Pharmaceutica is also preparing an own deep geothermal project for heating purposes.

A guarantee scheme for investments into geothermal project development has been set up by the government of Flanders. Under the scheme, some of the costs of drilling is paid back in case estimated energy production is not achieved. Developers are paying into the scheme with premiums.

Source: Flanders Today