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Finding sustainable energy within

SCAN scouts the Dutch subsurface to facilitate future geothermal opportunities

We need to move towards more sustainable sources to meet our energy needs, one such a source is geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is a resource that is reliable, because it is not dependent on weather or seasonal conditions. And it is sustainable, because it is a renewable energy source. Geothermal energy will therefore play an important role in the Dutch Energy Transition where we are looking for new, sustainable, resources to replace our current fossil fuels. Geothermal energy is currently already being used by growers in for example the Dutch greenhouse horticulture. In the future it will also be possible to supply this heat to homes, offices and to use it in certain industries.

To accelerate the development of geothermal energy projects, the Dutch government has initiated the ‘Netherlands Seismic Campaign for Geothermal Energy’ (Seismische Campagne Aardwarmte Nederland) or ‘SCAN’ programme for short. SCAN will complete the map of the Dutch underground by filling in the blank spots, and by doing so help support future determination of geothermal potential.

Filling in the blanks and accelerating the energy transition

Geothermal energy is heat that is present everywhere in the earth’s subsurface. It’s the geological conditions however that determine whether or not we can make use of this energy potential in a specific area. Thanks to the extraction of oil and gas in recent decades, large parts of the Dutch subsurface have already been researched and mapped. This knowledge can now be used again to determine the geothermal potential for these areas. We have a lesser understanding however of the rest of the landscape of our subsurface that has not been exploited for this purpose in the past. The objective of the SCAN programme is to fill in these ‘blanks’ and by doing so eventually accelerate the development of geothermal energy projects in the Netherlands. All research results are published on the open access website nlog.nl. Other organizations, such as project developers, municipalities and others can make use of this data.

The data published by SCAN is so called ‘processed data’. SCAN does not interpret this data nor advise on geothermal potential. All openly available data will first need to be interpreted for this purpose by experts. To initiate a geothermal project more local research is always needed.

The four pillars of the SCAN programme

The SCAN programme started in early 2019, and it will take several years to complete. The programme encompasses four principle areas. First, that’s the seismic surveys that are carried out in the areas where there is no data, or insufficient data, about the subsurface. For the seismic research we mainly use the so called ‘seismic shot method’. Holes are drilled along a carefully-chosen route, at short intervals (of 40 to 100 metres), and small charges are inserted. These are detonated once the measuring equipment is in place. The structure and composition of the subsurface is then analysed based on the reflection of these sound waves by geologists. This method has been used for many years and it is extremely safe.

Second, there is a large volume of pre-existing data from extraction and exploration projects that have been carried out since the 1950s. This data is reread and reprocessed by more modern computers. Separate researches into for example: safety, deep geothermal exploration and other relevant topics will also be carried out to further the understanding of geothermal energy exploitation. Finally, scientific survey drilling will possibly take place during the final stages of the programme to help confirm and supplement the measured data to gain an even better understanding of the underground in these areas.

The SCAN programme will also support research into subsurface strata deeper than 4 km, these are the so called ‘Ultra Deep Geothermal’, or UDG, projects. These separate projects will make use of SCAN data to support their research and future diverse applications of ultra deep geothermal energy.

SCAN in practice, municipalities and communication

As a part of SCAN careful field research is carried out across the Netherlands, in both rural and urban areas. These seismic surveys require the initiation of communication programmes in and via multiple municipalities. Together with all stakeholders, from administrators and policymakers to landowners, land users and local residents, SCAN strives for prompt, open and personal communication and information provision. Stay up to date on the seismic research here.

Oranization and contactinformation 

SCAN is executed by EBN (Energie Beheer Nederland) and the Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO) for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate policy (EZK). A subsidy has been awarded by the European Interreg fund. EBN can be contacted on behalf of the implementing parties. You can reach us via +31 (0)30 233 90 00 or at info@scanaardwarmte.nl.