Region of Flanders in Belgium to provide geothermal drilling guarantee scheme

Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium (source: flickr/ Russ Bowling, creative commons)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 25 Apr 2017

The region of Flanders in Belgium is to launch a geothermal risk insurance scheme that would allow developers recover certain costs if drilling for geothermal resources is not successful.

Reported locally, the region of Flanders is now planning to foster the development of geothermal projects in this region of Belgium, through a new guarantee scheme that would help take off the early drilling risk of projects. This was announced by the Energy Minister of Flanders recently.

With the significant investment required for drilling for geothermal resources, the government hopes to “convince companies to invest and to facilitate a breakthrough of deep geothermal energy in Flanders,” energy minister Bart Tommelein said.

Interested companies can submit a proposal to the government. Under the scheme, projects could receive certain costs recovered, if energy production from drilled well falls short of economically positive results. Under the scheme companies would pay an insurance premium for the project.

Currently, only the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (Vito) has carried out a trial project on deep geothermal energy in Flanders, with promising results. The Kempen region, in the north of Antwerp and Limburg, is the most attractive area for drilling because the hardest layers of rock are deeper there than elsewhere.

In Flanders, the geothermal gradient is approximately 3 °C per 100 m and the heat flux varies from 50 to 90 kW/m2. This variation, combined with the local geology, implies that the temperature rise with depth varies for different areas (see Figure). A simple calculation demonstrates that one must drill approximately 500 m deep to encounter water with a temperature of 25 °C. This is just about the bottom limit for direct geothermal applications. In Flanders, water-bearing layers at this depth can only be found in the Campine region and in the most southern area of West-Flanders. Direct applications for which a temperature of 40 °C or more is needed only appear possible in the Campine area. In contrast, applications that make use of heat pumps are possible everywhere.

Non-traditional geothermal applications, like EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems) or HDR (Hot Dry Rock), are, in principle, possible throughout Flanders. However, the economic feasibility of such projects must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Source: Flanders today, Vito