In this opinion article shared with Danish Ingenioren, Susanne Poulsen of AP Moller Holding Geothermal highlights why Denmark is ready to develop geothermal heating projects, yet requires the right framework conditions to deliver green heat.
In an opinion article in Danish publication, Ingenioren, Susanne Poulsen, Technical Director at AP Moller Holding Geothermal, raises the question if Denmark is ready for geothermal development?
Danish utilities are leaders in collective supply, including district heating, clean drinking water and green power. Danish architects and engineers are leaders in urban planning. Danish geologists and engineers are leaders in environmental technology, including subsurface mapping, groundwater modeling and drinking water protection.
Danish engineers, chemists, physicists and mathematicians are leaders in pump and heat pump technology, process chemistry, filtration, well technology and digitalisation. And finally, yes, in Denmark we are world champions in collaborating and integrating technology and creating green change that can be exported on a large scale.
In other words , in Denmark we have both the competences and the infrastructure to build Europe’s largest geothermal plant. So shouldn’t we just look to get started.
We hold our breath these weeks as politicians embark on crucial negotiations on the framework conditions for geothermal energy. Under our feet lies a great inexhaustible source of renewable energy, which can be harvested without CO2 emissions and particle pollution. It is a source of green heat, but also of green jobs, and it is an opportunity for us from Denmark to make an even greater green difference in the world. Let’s seize the opportunity now.
We are ready in the starting blocks with a ready-made project that several Danish companies, universities, authorities and utilities have helped to develop. We are, in fact, thieves. We have done an early strategic environmental assessment, which is our bid for responsible development and operation of geothermal energy.
However, the framework conditions have to fall into place first and it is urgent. As early as 2021 we can be ready to drill the first exploration wells, collect static and dynamic subsurface data, analyze water samples and thus map the quality of the resource. All the data we collect – in close collaboration with the utility company – we use to tailor the large-scale plant, which offers the lowest possible heating price and the highest security of supply.
A large-scale plant requires a wide collaboration between many qualified suppliers. Wells, heat pumps, heat exchangers, filters, electronics, control systems, etc. are widely offered. About 80 per cent. of the subcontractors must be in supply, so that we ensure competitive prices.
By 2023 , we may be ready to start building the large-scale plant itself. The system includes a series of small decentralized systems that are connected to the same district heating network. All the technology used in a geothermal plant is well tested and well known. But we have rethought the way to build geothermal plants, and we are patenting that.
What is new is that the system is modular, standardized and scalable. In practice, this means that the plants can be built off-site at yards or at suppliers and then installed quickly. This means that as a citizen you do not have to be a neighbor to a building site for a long time. Our construction method also means that we will not oversize the plants.
It is crucial for us to take good care of our neighbors and the surrounding environment. A completed system fills what is similar to the penalty area on a football field, and it can be partially buried – in a bunker solution – so that there are no noise nuisance from the system. We enter with talented architects who involve the local community in the visual and functional integration of the type of small technical installations in the urban space. Danish drinking water is our most precious natural resource. This is why we use a certified drinking water well drill as we pass the groundwater layers, and we will insulate our wells with an extra casing.
By 2024, we may be ready to switch on the first plant. This means 30 years of stable production of green heat at a plant that can be operated 100 per cent of wind turbine power. A large-scale geothermal plant will typically produce between 70 and 150 MW of heat for the base and intermediate load of district heating. Geothermal is thus one of several types, hopefully renewable green, heat production plants in a big city. It is the district heating company that plans and decides when and how they use the heat from the geothermal plant, so that they get the cheapest possible heat to the citizens.
There are a number of classic challenges in geothermal – for example, corrosion, precipitation of salts and clogging of wells. These are some of the themes that interest us the most, because there are still landmarks to do in smart water. We are in dialogue with Danish and foreign universities about the water treatment of the future, just as we are in dialogue with subcontractors on filter technology and oxygen-proof solutions.
90 per cent of a geothermal plant is in the underground. It was ‘built’ 200 million years ago and no drawings and user manuals are included. Our geologists, petrophysicists and engineers must make them themselves. Our team of engineers and geologists have been training for this since we each started in the oil industry over 20 years ago. And we experience an overwhelming reinforcement from a large number of Danish companies, universities and utilities.
In other words, we are many who are ready in the starting blocks and waiting for the framework conditions, so that we can start delivering green heat to Denmark. And later to the rest of the world.