In the European project DGE-ROLLOUT, countries the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium will look for ways to optimally extract geothermal energy. Especially the North of Limburg in Belgium would hold a lot of potential. To explore this in Bree and Lommel, the province is providing 126 000 euros. VITO, as one of the project partners, will be able to focus on the realisation of geothermal demonstration activities.

Climate change keeps people and society busy. Climate and energy goals that have been formulated worldwide must turn the tide. The European Union is asking its member states to reduce the current emissions of greenhouse gases and to use more renewable energy sources. The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium are convinced that the subsurface of the border area can help. In the European project DGE-ROLLOUT, these three countries will look for ways to optimally extract geothermal energy.

“The new knowledge and insights that the project will provide are important to install heating networks in the long term. They help modernise our economy and provide green growth and jobs”, says Deputy of Economy Tom Vandeput.

Especially the North of Limburg in Belgium would hold a lot of potential. To explore this in Bree and Lommel, the province is providing 126 000 euros.

Technical and economic feasibility

Geothermal energy is local and a renewable energy source that is always available. Despite these advantages, the technology is not yet being used on a large scale. Flemish research centre (VITO) previously collaborated with Dutch organisations Grontmij and TNO on research into the barriers and potential of the Flemish-Dutch border region. Via the Interreg project GEOHEAT.App and the EFRO project Geothermie 2020, the potential of geothermal energy in the border region was demonstrated. But in order to achieve the best profits, supply and demand must be optimally coordinated.

However, the complex geological conditions in the border area require specific expertise and technology. For this, there are parallels to be drawn with existing geothermal energy projects such as in Mol and Grubbenvorst (NL). 10 leading companies and research centres from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have therefore decided to join forces and further explore the technical and economic feasibility of deep geothermal energy and to further develop the concept for extracting and utilising the heat. For example, more demonstrations on thermal storage, intelligent heat control and the upgrading of heat are being carried out at various locations in the border region.

Align supply with demand

In order to estimate the heat consumption in the North of Limburg, a working group with 9 North Limburg municipalities was established under the supervision of the Provincial Development Agency, POM Limburg.

“The Provincial Development Agency POM Limburg brought together all the major actors such as grid operators Nuhma, Infrax (recently Fluvius) and knowledge centres EnergyVille and VITO”, says Frank Zwerts, managing director of POM Limburg.

From the data analyses of public buildings, households and industrial customers, Bree and Lommel proved to have the greatest potential. That is no coincidence, because in Bree, one of the most important industrial heat consumers is situated, more specifically the cannery GreenYard (Noliko). The heat demand of new developments in Lommel, combined with the heat consumption of the existing households and public buildings, is good for an equivalent of 490 000 MWh. If 50 % of the industry, 80 % of the households and 100 % of the tertiary sector is provided with geothermal energy, the CO2 emissions can be reduced by half compared to 2011. The city of Lommel is therefore perfectly suited for geothermal energy.

“Once the business cases of Lommel and Bree have been validated, the valorisation of this renewable energy can follow. This will contribute to the ambition to make Limburg a climate-neutral province by 2050”, says Deputy Tom Vandeput.

Further roll-out of new geological data

The global DGE-ROLLOUT project accounts for a project cost of 18.7 million. Europe finances more than 11 million euros.

To explore the possibilities of supply and demand in the North of the province of Limburg, the province is putting another 126 000 euros on the table. With this, VITO, as one of the project partners, will be able to focus on the realisation of geothermal demonstration activities. Moreover, the research centre has a lot of expertise in geothermal energy and will process the new geological data in a new geological 3D model of Flanders that can serve for the further roll-out of deep geothermal energy.

“The geothermal activity that is being carried out in the North of Limburg helps Limburg present itself as an innovative region. The heat and electricity produced and consumed in a renewable way will be inspiring. In time, this will attract new companies and bring additional employment”, says Deputy Tom Vandeput.