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Is sustainable energy supply based on geothermal energy possible in the region of Beerse, Malle, Oud-Turnhout, Turnhout and Vosselaar? VITO conducted a study to determine this. The most visible part of the study, the seismic campaign, has now started. Thumper trucks will carry out measurements in the area, starting this week. The measurement process will take about two weeks. A final result of the study is expected in July 2015, after processing and interpretation of the measurement data.

"This seismic study is very valuable for Janssen Pharmaceutica", says Hartwin Leen (Janssen Pharmaceutica). "It is an important first step for a research project into the deepest water layers (3 to 3,5 km). Water at this depth could provide electricity by using geothermal energy at the site of Janssen Pharmaceutica, but also in the wider region of Turnhout."

The study examines the possibility to pump warm water from a depth of about 2 to 3,5 km. This will be used for the generation of electricity and/or for the heating of buildings. In our neighboring countries, the Netherlands and Germany, similar geothermal systems are already in use. Based on existing data, researchers presume that the layers at this depth are eligible for geothermal energy. However, more data on the subsurface are required in order to accurately assess the potential. For this, the seismic campaign is needed. The measurements provide a better understanding of the composition and structure of the layers at a depth of about 1 to 3,5 km.

The measurements are performed using specially equipped trucks. Every 40 meters they perform a series of vibrations. This at a distance of about 5 kilometers per day. The vibrations are being registered with small, passive vibration instruments that are placed along the track. These fist-sized devices are connected to a cable that can best be compared with an ordinary electrical cord. The day before the measurements they will be placed along the track and they will be removed afterwards. All together they will remain lying at a specific location for maximum one week.

In mid-March the surveyors measure the exact positions of the points where the vibrations will be carried out and the exact locations of the vibration instruments. Both routes run as far as possible on public roads. At some places, we will have no other choice but to cross fields, meadows or forests. For this, the contractor will make arrangements with the users or the owners of those sites. Any damage caused by the thumper trucks is of course reimbursed. Again, this will be discussed in advance.

It is always our intention to keep the nuisance to a minimum. Near houses, stables, greenhouses or other constructions, we determine beforehand the expected vibration strength in order to assess whether it is necessary to reduce the strength of the vibrations. If we think it is not safe, we will cancel the vibrating point. To avoid damage, we remain at a safe distance from pipes (water, gas, sewage), irrigation systems and wells.

VITO is preparing this project thoroughly in cooperation with the municipalities involved, who will inform the inhabitants of their area. The latter is done via info sheets and/or the website of the municipality, as well as information meetings.  

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