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Interview series: Horst Kreuter, GeoThermal Engineering (GeoT)

The site of the stimulation experiment (2011-2012) in the Malm limestone in Mauerstetten, Germany (Project: Exorka GmbH, Drilling Rig: Hekla Energy GmbH)
Alexander Richter 14 Oct 2010

ThinkGeoEnergy interview series: Interview with Horst Kreuter, owner and CEO of German engineering firm GeoThermal Engineering GmbH in Karlsruhe, Germany.

ThinkGeoEnergy continues its interview series with participants of the upcoming GRC Annual Meeting and GEA Trade Show in Sacramento, October 25-27, 2010.

This time ThinkGeoEnergy was able to hear from Horst Kreuter, the owner and CEO of the German engineering firm GeoThermal Engineering GmbH (GeoT) in Karlsruhe, Germany. He is geologist and has a PhD in soil and rock mechanics from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). As Vice-President of the German Geothermal Association and Member of the Board of IGA he also serves the geothermal community. Horst started his geothermal career as co-founder of the first commercial geothermal development company in Germany in 1999.

How would you describe your company and your key activities?

GeoT is specialized in deep geothermal applications in Germany and worldwide. With offices and joint venture companies in Bochum, Dresden (Germany), Ennetbaden (Switzerland), Jakarta and Singapore. The services of GeoT start with the development of projects and their technical realization as well as including commercial aspects and especially risk mitigation.  Current projects reach from Germany to Africa and Indonesia. The risk of drilling a dry hole can be covered by government programs or private insurances. GeoT has helped designing risk mitigation programs for both governments and exploration risk mitigation providers. We have successfully arranged risk coverage for several projects. GeoT is part of many research and development projects. Topics are i.e. advanced drilling methods and drilling tools (EIV, seismic prediction while drilling). GeoT is leading a research team for a stimulation experiment to convert a dry well in the Malm limestone in the Bavarian Molasse into an EGS system.

Are you working in the U.S., or what are your key markets?

Not yet, but with our expertise and some of our customers looking and moving into the U.S. geothermal market we will also enter this  market soon. Especially with our experience in mitigation of exploration risk and our research and development know-how we can contribute a lot to the growing geothermal activities in the U.S. and of U.S. companies i.e. in Germany, Turkey, Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere. With our background in Germany we are focused on low temperature geothermal systems and EGS. For conventional geothermal systems we cooperate with the leading consultants in this field.

What do you consider the key obstacles and challenges for increased development in the U.S.?

Conventional geothermal systems are not the main challenge that we face today. The conventional resources only cover a small part of the U.S. territory. We need to  tap the low enthalpy and EGS resources to widen the use of geothermal energy in the U.S. and to bring it to a substantially higher portion of the future energy supply. With this we will also move closer to the customer to supply heat and cold. These aspects define the challenges: EGS technology has to be further developed to be applied with a high probability of success. From my point of view this can only be done with many projects worldwide and by sharing the experience to follow a steep learning curve. Projects in close distance to the customer face the challenge of public acceptance especially because of seismicity connected with EGS but also with hydrothermal projects. In Germany we are currently starting programs for public awareness for geothermal energy and acceptance of geothermal projects. The seismic events in Basel and Landau  focused the geothermal community on these issues that we will especially face in densely populated areas.

What do you think holds back speedier development of geothermal energy projects globally?

Looking at the investment and funding communities and especially banks, geothermal energy production is more complicated and challenging than a solar or a wind park project. Those who would like to invest and fund renewable energy projects tend to go for solar and wind to reduce their effort and risk. It needs a special kind of investors to fund e.g. technically challenging EGS projects. For a certain time, government support via feed-in tariffs, risk mitigation and R&D programs will still be necessary. To achieve this support and to attract investors we all have to make aware of the potential of geothermal for the renewable energy supply in the U.S. and in the world. It is more than worth the effort to promote geothermal as one of the main pillars of the energy supply in the future. Other problems are the risks that are seen in new technologies (EGS) and the exploration risk.

What are your expectations for the event in Sacramento and who do you look forward to meet at the event?

The last year event in Reno gave us a very good insight into the U.S. geothermal market and its players. The participation of geothermal specialists and companies from all over the world made the conference a very interesting marketplace.  The geothermal market is a global market and this will also be very obvious in Sacramento. We hope to get in contact with projects and players interested in our expertise to build up a market for GeoT in the U.S. As research and development in geothermal is going on in parallel all over the world, we hope to share and get new ideas in the presentations and discussions in Sacramento. From the IGA viewpoint we hope to initiate a good and closer relationship with GRC/GEA.

Company website: www.geo-t.de