City of Zwolle, Netherlands committed to geothermal for natural gas free city

City of  Zwolle, Netherlands committed to geothermal for natural gas free city Zwolle - Pelserbrugje, Netherlands (source: flickr/ Sjaak Kempe, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 7 Feb 2021

Being chosen to participate in a European research project, the ambitions of the city of Zwolle in the Netherlands to tap geothermal in its efforts to curb natural gas are closer than ever. Drilling could start in 2022.

The promising location for geothermal energy in the north of Zwolle (Dijklanden), Netherlands has been selected to participate in a European research project. The RESULT project focuses on extracting geothermal energy from thin layers of the earth. With the final choice for Zwolle, drilling for geothermal energy in Zwolle Noord comes a lot closer, so local news in late January 2021.

Part of the research is a first drilling. If this is successful, a second drilling will also follow. Drilling for geothermal energy in Zwolle may start as early as 2022. According to Zwolle, this is an important step towards a natural gas-free city.

Engie (operator), Huisman (Geo Project management and drilling technology), Energie Beheer Nederland (state-owned company) and TNO (research institute) work together within the RESULT research project. With the research, the parties want to demonstrate that a new drilling technique developed by Huisman can potentially double the production of geothermal energy from thin layers of the earth and thus also become financially feasible.

If the exploratory drilling proves successful, geothermal energy can be developed profitably in more areas in the Netherlands than previously thought, according to Zwolle. The new drilling method does not drill in one direction, as it normally does. Several side branches are drilled. This allows more heat to be extracted from the soil.

Alderman Monique Schuttenbeld of the Municipality of Zwolle: ‘I am extremely proud that Zwolle has been selected for the RESULT research project. For us, this project is a wonderful opportunity to take the development of geothermal energy in Zwolle to the next phase. Incidentally, it is not only an opportunity for Zwolle. If this innovative drilling method proves successful, it could mean a lot for the opportunities for geothermal energy in the rest of the Netherlands. This research project can thus make an important contribution to the entire energy transition. And for us in Zwolle it means that we are taking another important step towards a natural gas-free city. ‘

If all goes well, the first buildings in the Zwolle district of Holtenbroek can be heated with geothermal energy via a heat network from the end of 2023. The buildings that can be the first to be connected to the heat network are houses and apartments of housing corporations and two schools. Discussions are also taking place with the parties involved in the redevelopment of the Zwartewater zone and the Zwartewaterallee about a possible connection of the buildings to the heat network.

Suitable subsurface

According to the partnership, the location in Zwolle fits very well with the research goal of RESULT. Thin layers of earth are present in the subsoil at Dijklanden. The parties indicate that regular drilling technology is a profitable business case for this project. ‘Thanks to this special drilling technique, we can make better use of the heat from the subsurface, and possibly even double production and therefore make the project financially feasible,’ explains Remco van Ee van Huisman.

Geothermal energy is one of the alternative energy sources that can be used to make Zwolle natural gas-free. In other parts of the Netherlands, this source is already being used successfully, especially in glass and horticulture, such as in the Koekoekspolder in Kampen.

Heat from water

Geothermal energy is extracted from the naturally occurring warm water in deep layers of the earth. The hot water is pumped up through a well. The heat from the pumped water is transferred via a heat exchanger to a pipe system (heat network) and brought to the homes. The pumped-up water therefore does not enter the houses, but is returned to the subsoil after the heat transfer via a second well. There is a suitable earth layer for geothermal energy in the subsoil of the north of Zwolle. That is why the choice was made to start in Holtenbroek with the switch to natural gas-free. This means that parts of the Holtenbroek district in Zwolle will be the first to be connected to a heat network with a geothermal source.

If follow-up research and the permit process run smoothly, RESULT may be able to drill the first well in 2022. If enough heat can be recovered from the first borehole, this drilled well becomes the production well. A second well is therefore drilled with which the cooled water is pumped back into the subsoil.

Local residents think along

If the drilling is successful, a building above ground for the technology will be installed on the site of the two wells. This building will be located in Dijklanden on the corner of Urksteeg / Peterkampweg, where the Zwolle City Land estates are now temporarily located. A sounding board group has contributed ideas about the location of the building and how it can be integrated into the Zwolle landscape as well as possible. The sounding board group also sees opportunities for a combination with urban agriculture and an information center for visitors to the geothermal source. The sound group consists of residents of Dijklanden and the districts Aa -landen and Holtenbroek.

Source: Stadszaken