Replacing coal heating with geothermal in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW)

Geothermiezentrum Bochum, Germany (source: Umwelt NRW - Land NRW)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 28 Feb 2019

An ambitious research project is being kicked off in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in Germany, which will explore and implement geothermal energy utilisation for existing district heating systems, replacing the use of coal.

With funding of EUR 11.2 million, the European Union is promoting “Roll-out of Deep Geothermal Energy in NWE “, the project for the development of deep geothermal energy Potentials in northwest Europe (NWE) as recently introduced by Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Economic Affairs of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), with the NRW project partners at the energy site of Weisweiler.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the State of NRW have to be significantly reduced. The use of deep geothermal energy is one possibility, to extract large quantities of energy from renewable sources for the heat supply of energy-intensive infrastructure. In NRW, deep geothermal energy also the possibility of continue the use of existing district heating networks of the coal regions in the future.

Minister of Economics and Energy Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart: “The recommendations of the coal commission provide, for an end of coal-fired power generation in Germany by 2038. Therefore the state of NRW wants to massively expand the use of the diverse options of renewable energy in North Rhine-Westphalia in the coming years. The region should become a European Model region, modern, innovative and innovative for the transformation climate-friendly industry of the future. Deep geothermal energy offers the opportunity to provide climate neutral heating and can also make an important contribution to supply security.”

The latest project of the EU funding program INTERREG is “Roll-out of Deep Geothermal Energy in NWE “(DGE-ROLLOUT) in four European countries with several pilot projects at the start, we previously reported on it. Together with project partners from the Netherlands, Belgium and France, there are several players from the State of NRW participating.

The players from NRW, the Geological Service NRW (GD NRW), the International Geothermal Center Bochum (GZB), the DMT GmbH & Co. KG, Essen (DMT), and RWE Power AG will explore and develop the deep geothermal potential in Northwestern Europe and especially in NRW over the next four years. The goal of DGE-ROLLOUT is to replace the use of fossil fuels for the heat supply of large infrastructures by deep geothermal energy.

At one location each in the Rhineland and in the Ruhr area DGE-ROLLOUT is planned to demonstrate the favorable geological conditions in NRW for the use of deep geothermal energy for the heat transition (Waermewende) after the exit from coal.

On the NRW side, the project is coordinated by the Geological Service on the NRW. The consortium partners GZB and RWE Power AG will work on pilot sites for Deep geothermal energy in Weisweiler and in Bochum. DMT and GD NRW are centrally bound into the exploration of underground structures of cross-border carbonate platforms integrated into NW Europe. One of the largest European reservoirs for potential hydrothermal uses is suspected in the karst and low-lying limestone deposits. Particularly, NRW is seen to have very high potential for an economical and safe use of deep geothermal energy.

In the Rhineland, a deep geothermal well is to be drilled by the GZB with the participation of RWE Power AG and RuhrUniversität Bochum at the pilot site of the lignite power plant Weisweiler. The supply of the power plant with lignite,
which currently covers large parts of the district heating supply in the city region Aachen, will expire around the year 2030. The GZB will set up a real-laboratory for the characterizaton of the northwestern European limestone with the research laboratory for deep geothermal energy at the power plant site Weisweiler.  There, the partners will be investigating how far the district heating systems of the “Euregio”-region can be supplied by deep geothermal energy.

In the Ruhr area in Bochum, the warm mine water of a former coal mine in the area of the 115 MW district heating network of Bochum-Süd is heated by solar energy, with the plan to push it with a high-temperature heat pump directly into the district heating system from 2022. The existing fossil-fueled RWE heating plant in Bochum West will then go offline.

Subsequently, the GZB and Bochum University of Applied Sciences will then be completely supplied with geothermal energy.

Source: GZB Bochum