Studying the potential of geothermy as an energy source

Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored under the ground in the form of heat. It is renewable, ecologically responsible and available everywhere. The Belgian VITO research centre has been studying the potential of deep geothermal energy as a sustainable energy source for years. VITO has chosen ENGIE Fabricom to collaborate on the construction and maintenance of the very first deep geothermal energy plant in Belgium. It will open in Mol in 2019.

First geothermal power station in the Benelux

In contrast to sun and wind, geothermal energy is not dependent on weather conditions. The hot water circulates in a closed system and is therefore inexhaustible. Moreover, it is not accompanied by environmentally harmful emissions. Naturally, the financial feasibility and profitability must be studied. The initial costs for deep geothermal energy are considerable, but the operational costs are relatively low. VITO examines the technical challenges, the economic feasibility and the potential of geothermal energy in Flanders in the new deep geothermal energy plant in Mol.

A pilot project with potential

VITO acquired the sites of the old Balmatt site in Mol in 2007 and started testing drilling in 2015. Two wells of 3,610 m and 4,341 m depth were drilled, respectively. The pump test proved that the flow rate and the temperature of the water are more than sufficient to provide the Kempense region with sustainable heat and electricity. The light was consequently set to green to effectively build a deep geothermal power plant.

Heat and electricity

The water is pumped from a limestone layer at 130 °C. When the water has given off its heat in the surface heat exchanger, it is injected back into the ground. There the water is naturally heated again and the cycle can start over. VITO assumes that the two wells in continuous production can generate a thermal potential of approximately 10 MWth and an electrical potential of almost 1 MWe. This makes it the first deep geothermal energy plant in the Benelux, where green heat and electricity are produced. A complete geothermal energy plant (based on 5 to 6 wells) could generate up to 4 MWe. This would put the Mol site in the top 10 of deep geothermal co-generation power plants in Europe.

The role of ENGIE Fabricom

VITO has called ENGIE Fabricom in for the construction and maintenance of the above-ground installations. This assignment fits within the strategy of our company to focus on renewable energy.