Landau city council considers revival of geothermal power plant

Landau city council considers revival of geothermal power plant Landau geothermal power plant, Germany (source: Claus Ableiter, creative commons)
Carlo Cariaga 25 May 2022

Amidst the need for energy independence, the city council of Landau in Germany is consulting experts as they consider reviving the local geothermal power plant.

The city council of Landau in southern Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany is consulting experts and entrepreneurs in an effort to reverse the resolution that shut down the Landau geothermal power plant. In addition to plans of drilling a third well, there are also plans to extract lithium from the geothermal fluids.

A history of Landau geothermal power plant

The Landau geothermal power plant started operations in 2007 and was the first geothermal power plant in Rhineland-Palatinate. At the time, the power plant was owned by Pfalzwerke and Landau-based energy supplier Energie Sudwest.

Problems in the Landau geothermal power plant manifested early on. Earthquakes were reported in the region, resulting in damage to houses. Eventually, the power plant had to throttle its output and no longer operated economically. By 2013, the Daldrup company took over the Landau power plant.

By 2014, seismicity was also felt in the grounds of the power plant and damaged train tracks. The State Office for Geology and Mining then decided that the power plant had to be shut down temporarily as a precaution. Subsequent studies revealed that geothermal fluids from one of the two wells contaminated the groundwater in the area.

The Daldrup company repaired the borehole damage before the State Office gave the go-ahead for final recommissioning. In 2019, there was another change in ownership as Daldrup company sold both the Landau and Taufkirchen power plants to IKAV Invest, Luxembourg.

Plans for third well are underway

Last year, we reported on the plans to drill a third well in Landau. However, these plans have been discussed since 2012, back before the power plant output was first throttled.

The city administration of Landau no longer oppose the plans to drill this third well, citing that geothermal power plants can now be operated more safely compared to a decade ago. The current situation in Ukraine and how this affects the energy dependence of Germany is also a contributing factor to this change in decision.

The city council still intends to consult with experts and entrepreneurs before coming to a final decision on the revival of the power plant. This is planned to happen by the end of May. After the consultation, the city council will meet again to come up with a position on the plans for geothermal energy in Landau.

Lithium extraction to be explored

The city council has also expressed a favorable opinion on the plans to extract lithium from the thermal waters of Landau. The meeting document states that, “As a key industry, lithium production can promote the southern Palatinate as a business location to become a technology location for the mobility of the future, support the transformation and create new, future-proof jobs.”

Power plant operator geox is currently promoting lithium production in Landau in collaboration with Vulcan Energie (Vulcan). Since last autumn, Vulcan has been running a small test facility in Landau. Vulcan has been heavily involved in efforts to extract lithium from geothermal energy has been successful in producing battery-grade lithium from the pilot operations in the Upper Rhine Valley, as we previously reported.

There are now plants to build a larger pilot plant for lithium extraction. This will hopefully produce more insights into the feasibility of building a commercial facility near the Landau geothermal power plant.

Source: SWR