First cogeneration plant (combined heat and power) in Benelux


Mol, 9 October 2017: two years after the start of the exploratory drilling to a depth of 3000 m at the Balmatt site in Mol, the next phase was launched today, the geothermal energy plant. Because there is a future in the Kempen subsoil, that much is certain.

During an academic meeting, the committed Ministers of the Flemish government, Muyters, Schauvliege en Tommelein took the floor, along with partners Atlas Copco, Eandis and IOK. After this, the ministers unveiled a memorial plaque at the Balmatt site, where the first preparations are already underway for a third exploratory drilling. With this drilling, VITO’s experts want to research the geothermal potential of the earth’s strata dating from the Devonian. Also in the field of innovative drilling, in order to make geothermal energy possible in geologically less suitable areas, VITO will launch a project. To be continued!



On 14 September 2015, VITO launched an ambitious project: providing the Kempen region with sustainable heat and electricity through geothermal energy. In 2016, 2 wells at a depth of 3610 m and 4341 m respectively, were created. The pump test in the first drilling well showed that the output and temperature of the water are more than sufficient to realise these ambitions. In September 2016, the researchers performed tests to check the possibility to inject the previously pumped water in the limestone via the second drilling well. The results were positive.

After the injection tests, the activities shifted to the topsoil: the construction of the geothermal energy plant, the installation of heat exchangers and pumps and the creation of a heat grid to the premises of VITO, SCK•CEN and BelgoProcess. The creation of the heat grid has already been completed and on 9 October, the offical laying of the foundation stone of the first geothermal energy plant for heat and power in the Benelux took place.

Future plans

The official opening of the finished geothermal energy plant will follow mid 2018. After that, the premises of VITO, SCK•CEN and BelgoProcess will be heated with geothermal heat, followed by the broader Kempen region.

VITO continues to do research into the deep Kempen subsoil. To this end, the third exploratory drilling will start in November 2017. This drilling aims at the formed earth’s strata in the Devonion. Thus, the drilling will reach a depth of at least 4400 m and a length of almost 5 km, as it will proceed slanted. The results will follow in the course of the first few months of 2018.

As previously demonstrated, the technology used here to deploy geothermal energy as a renewable energy source is not possible in every region in Flanders. VITO launches an entire new research project to provide these regions with geothermal heat using innovative drilling techniques. The drilling techniques can also be used for other purposes, such as tunnel construction where speed and cost price are determining factors.

Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation Philippe Muyters: “Geothermal energy has a lot of potential, but it remains risky. As with any innovative idea, the outcome is uncertain. Together with the Flemish government VITO is removing thresholds so that economic players dare to and can take the step: they bridge the innovative valley of death. The main question remains, of course, whether at the other end of the bridge, the industry is willing to valorise VITO’s efforts. That will be the challenge of the coming months.”

Joke Schauvliege, Flemish Minister for Environment, Nature and Agriculture: “Combating climate change is one of the biggest challenges the planet is facing. Ambitious investment projects, such as these, in geothermal energy, prove that we in Flanders can also turn the tide thanks to smart, visionary entrepreneurs.”

Flemish Minister for Energy Bart Tommelein: “After a successful trial period, deep geothermal energy will soon make its actual appearance in Flanders. Deep geothermal energy is part of the energy mix of the future. In Heat Plan 2020, we are assuming 164 GWh (Gigawatt thermal) to achieve our European renewable energy targets. With a guarantee scheme that addresses the risk of disappointing drilling, we want to attract other interested companies to investigate deep geothermal energy as a renewable resource.”