IGC2015 shows tremendous potential for geothermal in Europe

Stand of Transmark Services at the International Geothermal Conference 2015 in Offenburg, Germany (source: Enerchange)
Alexander Richter 12 Mar 2015

The 11th International Geothermal Conference once again was a great success. With more than 200 participants the event featured not only Turkey, but also topics related to geothermal development in the French-German border region.

In its 11th run this year’s International Geothermal Conference (IGC) was held in Offenburg in conjunction with Europe’s largest geothermal energy trade show, the GeoTHERM Expo. More than 200 participants  joined the conference. With many participants from Turkey, there were also a large number of participants from the nearby region of Alsace in France. This is probably not surprising as there are several project in development in the area around Strasbourg. A day after the conference the 4th Upper Rhine Forum in particular discussed the public acceptance of the geothermal projects in the region.

This year’s congress ended with a highlight, the geothermal development in Turkey. The installed power generation capacity is now at 410 MW and there are currently 30 rigs drilling for geothermal projects, as presented by Tevfik Kaya from Schlumberger. And development is going to speed up. Adonai Herrera Martinez from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) introduced a new program, that will be launched soon. Here the development of geothermal projects is funded already after the pre-feasibility stage. Additionally the EBRD finances also projects, like Germencik or Pamukören that was introduced by Onur Serin from Atlas Copco.

However, there are also problems related to the operation of geothermal power plants. On the one hand they have to deal with inhibitors to prevent scalings, as Prof. Füsun Hakklidir from the Bilgi Universitesi demonstrated. On the other hand the deep groundwater that are used for electricity generation contain a lot of CO2. Here also the EBRD searches for solutions for a better operation of the geothermal plants.

But also the other forums were very interesting and opened new perspectives. For example Kris Marnette from Transmark Services, one of the Gold Sponsors of the IGC, introduced into the utilisation of Magneto Tellurics for Exploration. He showed that it is a cheap method and especially applicable in Turkey with an extensional play type as described by Moeck. Dr. Eva Schill (KIT) emphasized that also hydrochemical methods should be included in the exploration and showed that based on measurements of the Bouguer anomaly conclusions about fracture porosity in the subsurface could be drawn. Another interesting presentation was by Kemal Erbas from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences who introduced measurements of naturally occurring seismicity in Iceland to get to know subsurface structures.

Parallel to the Forum about Exploration the achievements and challenges of ESP-systems were discussed. It became clear that especially as far as the most efficient pumps are concerned there is already a lot of development work done. However there are still challenges the manufacturers have to cope with. However as far as ESP systems with lower power and less production rate can be used, for example for heat production, they work nearly without any problems. Just the larger types, operating in the Southern Bavarian Molasse Basin, that should produce up to 150 Liter per seconds at temperatures of up to 150 °C show scalings, that decrease the lifetime of the ESPs. Here the manufacturers have to focus on.

The Forum about the Drilling Costs showed that especially from the drillers perspective there is not much potential for lowering the costs. However, Tevfik Kaya from Schlumberger mentioned that in Turkey the costs are dropping at the moment. This he attributes to low rig, management and service costs but also to vertical drilled wells.

The perspectives of Heat Generation were the topic of Forum V. Here Dr. Chrisitan Hecht showed, that the local utility, the SWM has ambitious plans to bring geothermal heat in the existing and newly district heating grid. Drilling of the first plant after Riem shall start this year. Within this context there exists a scientific programme, where the SWM want to find out, what density of geothermal plants is possible.

The generation of Geothermal Heat is also in other countries interesting. Reykjavik is highly experienced within this respect, as shown by Alexander Richter from thinkgeoenergy. Geneva is just beginning with the exploration for dth project Geohtermal 2020 where all possible reservoir shall be investigatet. And the heat utilization in an industrial company in Alsace is in progress and the supply should start at the end of the year, what was also shown within the framework to the Field trip the next day within the 4th Upper Rhine Forum, organized by TRION-climate and Enerchange.

The Field trip to Bruchsal showed a plant of the utility EnBW in operation. Although the operational hours are rising smoothly, as the project is transferred from a R & D to an economic project there exist already many results of the operational phase that were accompanied by an intensive scientific programme. So the operators could also present solutions for the problems, like the degassing problem that was coped with a gas bridge that separates CO2 before the heat exchanger and injects it again before the reinjection of the well.

In a nutshell, this year’s IGC showed that there is a great potential for geothermal energy and a lot of countries beyond Germany take this energy into account. The combination of IGC and GeoTHERM in close relation facilitates to bring the players from different countries together and offers a platform for discussions about the development of the technology. Dr. Hartwig Schröder from enpros emphasized: “After a period of depletion a slowly growing optimistic atmosphere can be recognized within the German geothermal branch and among the conference participants. This may also be related to the pleasant news from the Turkish speakers about the positive local market development. In my opinion it was a very good decision for the IGC to focus on Turkish market at the conference.”

Codes for the download of the presentations of the IGC 2015 can be ordered from Enerchange (