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Despite unknowns, geothermal heating could grow exponentially in the Netherlands

Drilling rig on site in the Netherlands (source: Daldrup & Söhne AG)
Alexander Richter 8 Jun 2018

With recent estimations seeing a large geothermal heating potential in the Netherlands, the main obstacle is the question if large parts of the Netherlands are actually suitable. For that, TNO suggests a play-based portfolio approach, where joint exploration aims at maximizing the success of drilling the next wells.

Following the recently released Geothermal Geothermal Energy Master Plan for the Netherlands by DAGO, Warmtenetwerk Foundation and EBN, the production of renewable geothermal energy in the Netherlands can grow from 3 petajoules (PJ) now to 50 PJ per year in 2030 and even 200 PJ in 2050.

To achieve this, a new approach is needed to accelerate the development of geothermal energy, as described in a recent news piece by TNO in the country. TNO and EBN suggest a play-based portfolio approach. TNO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek) is an independent research organisation in the Netherlands that focuses on applied science. EBN (Energie Beheer Nederland B.V.) is a natural gas exploration, production, transportation and sale company owned by the Dutch Government. TNO and EBN both contributed to this recently released Master Plan, we reported on.

Play-based portfolio approach geothermal

One of the major obstacles to growth to 50 PJ in 2030 is that for large parts of the subsurface of the Netherlands, it is still insufficiently certain whether they are suitable for geothermal energy. The report shows that a different approach, the so-called play-based portfolio, can remove this obstacle. A homogeneous layer in the subsurface is called a ‘play’. By optimally sharing knowledge gained during joint exploration of the subsurface, the chance of a successful next drilling is maximized.

In 2017, sixteen geothermal installations were active in the Netherlands, accounting for approximately 3 PJ. Thanks to the new approach, growth to hundreds of doublets and a multitude of produced geothermal energy is possible. The approach, which is common in the oil and gas sector, also has a financial advantage that can amount to no less than EUR 2 billion.

The play-based portfolio approach means an optimal development of the public foundation. The amount of geothermal energy produced grows considerably compared to the ‘stand alone’ approach whereby knowledge is sub-optimally shared.

The new approach has many advantages. By jointly drilling, the parties spread the financial risks, new operators make use of past experience, knowledge about the subsoil is shared, by joining together it is better to respond to the demand for heat and the design of the required infrastructure and finally cost savings.

Source: TNO

Note: This article was updated June 13, 2018