18/05/2017

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Today, the mayors (1) of the northern part of the province Limburg (Belgium) and representatives of VITO, INFRAX, NUHMA, EnergyVille and POM Limburg, the Limburg Development Agency, gathered at ‘Huis van de Stad’ in Lommel for the launch of the taskforce to explore the potential of geothermal energy and its exploitation in the region. Research shows that there is a real potential for deep geothermal energy (2). There are several aquifers in the region that can be used for heating purposes. The temperature in the deepest aquifer appears to rise to over 150 degrees Celcius, enough to produce not only heat, but electricity as well. 

“North Limburg certainly has potential for this form of energy production. Research, carried out as part of the INTERREG project GEOHEAT.App and the EFRO project GEOTHERMIE 2020, shows that there is real potential for a successful drilling in the northern part of Limburg”, says Lode Ceyssens, mayor of Meeuwen-Gruitrode. In the area, several aquifers are present that can be used for heating proposes. The temperature in the deepest aquifer appears to rise to over 150 degrees Celcius, enough to produce heat ánd electricity at the same time. The estimations of this geothermal energy potential in North Limburg are based on the extrapolation of data from the Antwerp Kempen and the Limburg part of The Netherlands, where drillings have already proven to be successful. 

However, the deep geology of the area has never been studied in detail. Therefore, an additional exploration of the deep subsurface of North Limburg is essential. The first step is performing seismic measurements. In this respect, the nine municipalities are joining forces in an interregional project in which a large-scale seismic campaign (research) in the northern part of Limburg is proposed by VITO. Depending on the results of these measurements, the preparation and execution of an exploratory drilling is underway. If this exploratory drilling proves to be successful, the exploitation of geothermal energy and the development of the necessary infrastructure will follow.

Today, the kick-off for a task force, in which the mayors and the key players in the energy market will participate, took place. Raf Drieskens, mayor of Neerpelt and chairman of Platform North Limburg: “This task force will further explore the potential for North Limburg and advice the municipalities on the realisation of geothermal energy, as a joint effort. Furthermore, the task force is expected to draw up a business plan, resulting in the implementation of an actual, feasible project in the long term.

Peter Vanvelthoven, mayor of Lommel, the city that has great potential for developing an industrial area, points out the advantages: “If North Limburg were to succeed in this project, it would be a great opportunity and form a strong leverage for further socio-economic development of the region by attracting new businesses and creating additional employment. 

There is a great enthusiasm among the mayors to start exploring geothermal energy.

(1) North Limburg: Bocholt, Bree, Hamont-Achel, Hechtel-Eksel, Lommel, Meeuwen-Gruitrode, Neerpelt, Overpelt, Peer.
(2) Geothermal energy stands for 'geothermal heat'. Hot water from the deep subsurface (more than 500 metres deep) is pumped up through wells. The heat, which can rise to over 150 degrees Celcius, is then converted into electricity or brought to houses, businesses or public buildings via a piping system. After the water has been used to generate electricity or hot water and has cooled down, it is brought back to the layer of soil to reheat. The benefits of this energy recovery are clear. Because the water circulates in a "closed system", this energy form is inexhaustible. Furthermore, there are no harmful emissions that can damage the environment. The biggest investment is the drilling and expansion of the installations. Afterwards, geothermal energy is a cheap energy source that is not subject to fluctuations in the energy market.

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