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Finding sustainable energy within

SCAN scouts the Dutch subsurface for future geothermal opportunities

We need to move towards more sustainable ways to meet our energy needs. Geothermal energy is a resource that is sustainable and, because it is not dependent on weather or seasonal conditions, is it also reliable. It 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 being used by growers, in for example the Dutch greenhouse horticulture. In the future it will also be possible to use it to provide heat to homes, offices and to the lighter process-industry.

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. The purpose of the SCAN programme is to complete the map of the Dutch deep subsurface by researching the areas that were historically left ‘blank’ because of their lack of oil and or gas potential. By openly sharing this data SCAN will help support future determination of geothermal potential in these areas.

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 local geological conditions however that determine whether or not we can make use of this energy. Thanks to the extraction of oil and gas in recent decades, large parts of the Dutch subsurface have already been explored and mapped. This knowledge can now be re-used to determine the geothermal potential in these areas. We have a lesser understanding however of the rest our ‘subsurface landscape’ that has not been exploited for this purpose. The objective of the SCAN programme is to fill in these ‘blanks’ and by doing so eventually help 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 download and make use of this data.

It should be noted that 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 kicked-off in 2018 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, or insufficient, data about the subsurface. For the seismic acquisition we mainly use the so called ‘seismic shot method’. In this method holes are drilled along a carefully-chosen route, at intervals of 40 to 100 metres. Small charges are inserted that are detonated once the measuring equipment is in place. The structure and composition of the subsurface can then be analysed based on the reflection of these underground sound waves. This method has been used for many years and it is very 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 using modern advanced computing technology. A third part will consist of separate researches into for example: safety, deep geothermal exploration and other relevant topics. The purpose of these researches is to further the understanding of geothermal energy exploitation in general. Finally, scientific drilling will possibly take place during the final stages of the programme to help confirm and supplement the measured data, and gain an even better understanding of the subsurface 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 own research and future diverse applications of ultra deep geothermal energy.

SCAN in practice, municipalities and communication
As a part of the preparation and execution of each line, field research is carried out in both rural as well as urban areas. This seismic acquisition requires the initiation of communication programmes in and via the multitude of municipalities that are involved. Together with all stakeholders, from administrators and policymakers to landowners, land users and local residents, SCAN strives for timely, correct and open communication and information to all those involved. You can view our research area-map here and stay up to date on the seismic programme 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). In addition 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.