Northern Limburg municipalities choose geothermal energy

19-05-2017

18 May 2017 - Today, the Northern Limburg mayors (1) and representatives of VITO, INFRAX, NUHMA, EnergyVille and POM Limburg gathered at the House of the City in Lommel, Belgium to launch a task force that maps the potential of geothermal energy and its exploitation for the region. Research shows that the potential for deep geothermal energy (2) is certainly present. There are aquifers (or water-bearing layers) in the region that can be used for heating purposes. The temperature in the deepest water-bearing layer appears to rise to more than 150°C, which is enough to be able to produce electricity in addition to heat.

"Northern Limburg certainly has potential for this form of energy recovery. Research conducted in the context of the INTERREG project GEOHEAT.App and the EFRO project GEOTHERMIE 2020 indicates that the chance of successful drilling in Northern Limburg is real," said Lode Ceyssens, Mayor of Meeuwen-Gruitrode, on whose invitation the mayors first discovered the results of the study. In the area there are several waterborne soil layers that can be used for heating purposes. The temperature in the deepest water-bearing layer appears to rise to more than 150°C, which is is enough to be able to produce electricity in addition to heat. The estimates of this geothermal potential in Northern Limburg are based on the extrapolation of data from Antwerp Kempen and Dutch-Limburg, where drilling has already been successful.

However, the deep geology of the area has never been studied in detail. An additional exploration of the deep soil of Northern Limburg is essential. The first step is therefore to perform seismic measurements. That is why the nine municipalities engaged in an interregional project in which a large-scale seismic campaign in Northern Limburg is proposed by VITO. Depending on the results of these measurements, the preparation and execution of a (pilot) drilling can be continued. If this pilot is successful, the exploitation of geothermal energy can be started and the necessary infrastructure can be developed.

Today is the start of a task force in which the mayors and the main players in the energy market participate. Raf Drieskens, Mayor of Neerpelt and chairman of the Northern Limburg Platform: "This task force should explore the possibilities for Northern Limburg and advise the municipal councils on how the development of geothermal energy can be achieved through collaboration. Furthermore, the task force is expected to set up a clear business plan to eventually achieve a viable project."

Peter Vanvelthoven, mayor of the city of Lommel, where there is an enormous potential for developing an industrial area, elaborates on the opportunities: "If Northern Limburg were to succeed in exploiting this renewable energy source, this would provide a strong opportunity and a strong leverage for the socio-economic development of the region, including attracting new businesses and creating additional employment. "

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

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(1) Northern Limburg municipalities include: Bocholt, Bree, Hamont-Achel, Hechtel-Eksel, Lommel, Meeuwen-Gruitrode, Neerpelt, Overpelt, Peer.

(2) Geothermal energy stands for 'geothermal heat'. Hot water from the deep soil (more than 500 meters deep) is pumped up through wells. The heat, which can rise to more than 150 degrees, 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 is cooler, 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 is 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.