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Working on drilling technology for geothermal in Rijswijk, Netherlands

Rijswijk Center for Sustainable Geo-energy, geothermal lab, Netherlands (source: TNO)
Alexander Richter 31 Oct 2020

The Rijswijk Center for Sustainable Geo-energy in the Netherlands builds upon a former drilling laboratory of Shell, now exploring technologies that could help propel technology helping to drill more economically for geothermal projects under the leadership of TNO.

For a long time Shell researched drilling technology in Rijswijk, Netherlands, but TNO took over the local lab and established the Center for Sustainable Geo-energy in the city. Program manager Frank van Bergen talks about his special workplace in a recent piece published in De Ingenieur.

“It is a symbolic place. Until 2017, Shell had its center for drilling technology here. When Shell left, the devices stopped, but all knowledge about their use and the research programs were lost in one fell swoop. Now we are building a portfolio of projects within geothermal energy and underground heat storage. We have got the appliances working again and are using them for the energy transition.

For oil and gas extraction, drilling to a depth of four or five kilometers is often necessary. We won’t make it here, but we do have a well here four hundred meters deep. It offers us a controlled environment in which we can conduct experiments that are close to reality. How do sensors work at depth? How do the tubes behave? Do the closures work as intended?

Geothermal

Here, Shell has conducted years of research into both the drilling and completion of wells. The latter is understood to mean placing a steel pipe in the well, which then remains in place for the entire production time. This knowledge is indispensable for oil and gas extraction, but also for geothermal energy: there must be one well in the ground from which to extract hot water and a second well to inject hot water. Here we can properly optimize the technologies that have been developed for oil and gas for geothermal drilling. ”

Experimental research

“With underground heat storage it is important to extract the same amount of heat from the ground as you put in it. Of course, that never works completely, but how can the heat loss be limited? The more heat is lost along the way, the less profitable the underground storage is. In Rijswijk we can conduct experimental research: how much hot water should we inject, where and when can it best be done?

In addition, we are testing drilling techniques or new ways to seal wells. We took over a complete drilling installation and a factory hall full of specialist equipment, but it took a while before we knew what we could do with it. We are now setting up our own research program.

I dare not say whether geothermal energy will be the sustainable energy source of the future. It is true that geothermal energy will be one of the components of a sustainable energy system that must be reliable and affordable. After a year of preliminary work, the official opening took place here in March. The lockdown started a day later. We have now been operational for a few months and the first investigations are underway.

We share the results with the community in order to accelerate the transition. We also differ from Shell in this respect. That company mainly conducted research to support its own activities. ‘

Source: De Ingenieur