Geothermal research at TU Delft gets a boost
While most people did not think about heating their houses during the last hot summer months, researchers at TU Delft did exactly that (and not just the last months). Scientists involved in geothermal research have good reasons to look forward: the Board of the University has made a decision-in-principle for a next step towards realising a geothermal research well.
The Dutch government has resolved to extract 15 PJ (peta joules) of energy by 2030 from geothermal energy (which equals the energy used by 300.000-500.000 households). This has the potential to be increased to around 50PJ (around 1,5 million households by 2050). This goal can only be achieved when existing technologies are scaled up in the short term. It also requires research into generating usable energy from geothermal heat in a more efficient manner and reducing investment and operational costs. To this end, TU Delft is doing research on new materials and innovative ways of monitoring subsurface processes and was recently awarded more than 5 million euro for scientific equipment of a geothermal research well by NWO (EPOS-NL project).
Phil Vardon, Associate Professor at the Department of Geoscience & Engineering, explains the idea behind the envisioned well: “You can do a lot with lab work and modelling, but at a certain point you really need to study what is actually happening in the ground. We need to check the models and the theory with a geothermal well in operation. Therefore, we came up with the idea of a Living Lab, a geothermal well that is not just producing hot water to heat our buildings on campus, but that serves as a research infrastructure at the same time.”
The geothermal well, at that time called the DAPwell (Delft Aardwarmte Project well), was first imagined by a group of TU Delft students in 2008. It is now a university run project and Foundation ‘DAP’ remains a strong supporter of the research, education and development in geothermal energy at TU Delft.
While scientific measurements during operations are the dream of any geothermal researchers, good cooperation, planning and clear decision making tools will be needed to serve the scientific goals and assuring continued heat supply. Getting to know the different interests and obligations, was crucial at the beginning of the project and will be the base for the next phase. A project team is currently working on the business case and administrative issues that come with an infrastructure project that involves many buildings on campus. Though major steps have now been taken towards a possible geothermal well on campus, a final decision will take some additional time. This extra time is needed to acquire various permits, as well as to go from the current design outline to a detailed technical design.
The well will supply campus buildings with heat. In the future further research could be done on extending the heat grid further. TU Delft is proud to work on a sustainable campus, where electricity is already provided by solar panels on TU buildings and an off-shore wind park. Heating campus buildings with geothermal energy would bring TU Delft a big step towards being 100% CO2-neutral.
The EPOS-NL project is the Dutch contribution to the European Plate Observing System (EPOS), the Europe-wide infrastructure of geological sciences, geo-hazards and resources. The aim of EPOS-NL is to develop the necessary infrastructure for enabling scientific breakthroughs in our understanding of man-made geo-hazards. The project is coordinated by Utrecht University, with TU Delft and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) as another partner, and has been allocated €12,272,000 by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It is one of the ten awarded proposals in the National Roadmap for Large-Scale Scientific Infrastructure. The funding makes it possible to build or modernise top research facilities with an international allure.