Drilling for geothermic energy set to start

27th November 2012, Comments 0 comments

The Flemish Institute for Technological Research Vito and the Walloon Earth Solutions are geared to start generating geothermic energy. If all goes according to plan, they will each start drilling a number of 3 3000-metre deep holes to pump hot groundwater from layers at some thousands of metres under the earth surface during the second half of next year. The water will be used to heat buildings and to generate electricity. The recovery of this subterranean heat has been top priority for Vito for a number of years. This week the tender for a number of drillings has finally been sealed. The drilling will make up 60% of the total cost of the project budget of 30 million euros, says Vito project manager Ben Laenen. If the tenders are reasonable, they will set up a “special purpose company" next year to roll out the geothermic project. So far Vito has rounded up a number of partners who are keen to come on board, among them an investment vehicle affiliated to the Flemish government, a grid controller and a green current company. If all parties approve the final project in the spring of next year, drilling can be started by the middle of next year. Vito has already identified a suitable location for the drilling in the Balmatt site in Mol, in the Antwerp part of De Kempen, where water with a temperature of 120 degrees can be found in limestone layers at a depth of between 2 900 and 3 600 metres. Furthermore there are a number of buyers for the generated heat. “We can use the hot water to heat a number of Vito buildings, but we are also considering other buyers in the surrounding areas,” says Laenen. Besides they plan to use the heat to produce electricity. The installation will have a projected capacity of between 1 and 3 megawatt, which is equal to the production capacity of one wind turbine. Balmatt will serve as a test case and if all goes well Vito and their partners plan to build similar installations in locations where there is sufficient demand for heating. Previous calculations by Vito showed that natural heat from the earth could supply one quarter of Flanders’ electricity requirements. Across the language border the environmental services company Earth Solutions is involved in a similar project, although it is more focused on the generation of electricity from the hot subterranean water. Representatives of the company have already paid a visit to the cabinet of Walloon energy minister Jean-Marc Nollet to discuss support for their plans to start a geothermic project after drilling at a depth of 5 000 metres. According to the Sudpresse newspapers soil tests conducted by Earth Solution in Henegouwen have confirmed their hypotheses. Nollet seems to be favourably disposed to the idea, saying: “We may not have any oil in Wallonia, but we do have hot water.” Both these projects will run more or less concurrently. Earth Solutions have expressed their intention to complete a power station by 2015 if they can start drilling next year.

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