Mol, 19 February 2016: During the well-attended follow-up meeting of the deep geothermal energy project of VITO at the Balmatt site, it was made clear that the Flemish energy landscape is on the verge of a major breakthrough: deep geothermal energy could help Flanders to meet the climate goals without significant additional costs. Both companies and individuals could then make use of heat and electricity, which is continuously available (regardless of day/night and weather conditions) and at a fixed price, regardless of the global and local energy market. And this without green certificates and for at least 20 years at the current low prices. In order to realise these ambitions, VITO will collaborate with research organisations such as EnergyVille, with industry such as Atlas Copco and with operators such as Eandis and Infrax, as well as new companies to be set up such as the Kempen Heat Company (Kempens Warmtebedrijf).
This form of energy opens up many opportunities for existing companies, such as for example Janssen Pharmaceutica, but also for new sectors. With this in mind, Flanders can be attractive for the establishment of companies active in CO2 capture and processing in sustainable chemistry. Not only VOKA Kempen welcomes this, but also Flemish Minister for Work, Economy and Innovation, Philippe Muyters.
VITO invites the Flemish government to consider a concession policy for an area of no less than 45 municipalities in the Antwerp and Limburg Kempen and to consider a modification of the EPB regulations.
Successful exploratory drilling Balmatt site puts second well in the pipeline
As the steam cloud already indicated during the pump test, the calculations of the VITO experts were correct and the exploratory drilling has reached a hot water reservoir in the Lower Carboniferous Layer. The reservoir even appears to have higher potential than the most likely hypothesis of the researchers. On 16 February, the Board of Directors of VITO has therefore decided to proceed with the second drilling.
VITO experts have modified the drilling track on the basis of the knowledge gained from the first drilling. The top is located at 7.5 km from the first well. The second drilling will start next week and will be completed by the end of June 2016. Afterwards, the researchers will carry out an extensive pump test in order to fully explore the newly discovered reservoir.
VITO assumes that both wells could generate a thermal potential of 15 to 17 MWth and an electric potential of more than 1.5MWel, in production and continuous operation. An entire geothermal energy station (based on 6 wells) could thus generate more than 5 MWel. Therefore, the Balmatt site could turn into the fourth largest geothermal energy station in Europe.
Besides heat also electricity
After the realisation of the second well, VITO will install a heat exchanger, as well as a first ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle, converting heat into electricity). With this setup, VITO will investigate whether electricity production is feasible. Furthermore, the continuous operation of both wells will allow the researchers to monitor the temperature and the flow rate over an extended period of time (months). The heat supply to VITO-SCK will take place in the summer of 2017.
This is just the beginning
If the parameters are just as promising after the second drilling, the inhabitants of Mol and Dessel could be given the chance to heat their homes at approx. 120 euros/month during the next 20 years for an average home with a heat consumption of 23 MWh/year. This is in line with the current low energy bill, which, however, depends on the price fluctuations on the global oil and gas market, as well as the offer of weather-dependent renewable energy.
“In order to realise this for the whole area of the Antwerp and Limburg Kempen, some 45 municipalities and approx. 900 000 inhabitants, a consultation with the Flemish government is necessary, to pursue a smart concession policy and the modification of the current EPB regulations”, says Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director of VITO.
VITO experts expect that with the entire plan, green electricity can be generated that covers more than 10 % of the Flemish electricity production. This means that the CO2 emission in Flanders would fall immediately with two megatons of CO2 (see climate goals).
VITO researchers are also convinced that the air cooling of the ORC can be used for mass and cheap CO2 capture. VITO already applied for a patent in this area and is working with Thomas More on a demo installation. VITO is also in discussion with existing companies on the implementability of a CO2 capture system. There are also conversations with potential consumers of CO2.
As a research organisation, VITO is working on the development of the conversion of CO2 into chemicals. A number of VITO technologies are already in the development stage and can be demonstrated at the Balmatt site from 2019 onwards.
Last but not least: the operation can also have a significant impact on the employment in the region.
Flemish Minister for Work, Economy and Innovation, Philippe Muyters: “This exploratory drilling is not only a wonderful research project, but also a source of employment. I am pleased that the results of the first exploratory drilling are promising and I am looking forward to the results of the second one. Deep geothermal energy could eventually lead to lower energy costs for Flemish companies, but also secures them in a sustainable way in Flanders.”