The research organisation VITO has been researching the potential of deep geothermal energy in the earth under Belgium as a sustainable energy source for many years. In 2017, VITO decided to collaborate with ENGIE Fabricom on building the very first deep geothermal energy plant in Belgium. It will put VITO in a position to investigate the technical challenges, the economic feasibility, and the potential of geothermal energy in Flanders in real conditions.

A pilot project with potential

VITO acquired the sites of the old Balmatt site in Mol in 2007, and started testing boreholes in 2015. Two wells were drilled, one 3,610 m deep and the other 4,341 m deep. Tests showed that the flow rate and the temperature of water pumped through the well are more than sufficient to provide the Kempen region with sustainable heat and electricity, so the green light was given to build a deep geothermal power plant.

Heat and electricity

Water at a temperature of 130 °C is pumped from a limestone layer. At the surface, the thermal energy of this hot water is extracted by a heat exchanger, after which the water is sent back down the well where it is naturally heated again, and the cycle repeated.

VITO believes that with two wells in continuous production, it can generate a thermal potential of approximately 10 MWth, and an electricity output potential of almost 1 MWe. This will make it the first deep geothermal energy plant in the Benelux to generate green heat and electricity. A complete geothermal energy plant with 5 or 6 wells could generate 4 MWe, which would put the de Mol site in the top 10 deep geothermal cogeneration power plants in Europe.

ENGIE Fabricom’s role

VITO ENGIE Fabricom was contracted to build and maintain the structures on the surface. This assignment fits our company’s strategy of focussing on renewable energy.