The ‘Rijswijk Centre for Sustainable Geo-energy’ (RCSG) is opened on Thursday 5 March 2020. The RCSG is a unique field lab where geothermal heat projects can be tested on a true scale. Geothermal energy can play an important role in the energy transition; by 2050 we will be able to meet a quarter of the heat demand in the Netherlands with geothermal energy. To accelerate this development, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, Energie Beheer Nederland, the Province of South Holland, the Municipality of Rijswijk and TNO have set up the RCSG.
The RCSG is located in Shell’s former ‘well research and test centre’ in Rijswijk. Companies active in the field of geothermal heat can make use of the advanced laboratory. All facilities are present to test and experiment with new drilling techniques and materials under high pressure and temperature. Almost all underground conditions in the Netherlands can be simulated. Worldwide there are only a few comparable centres.
Importance of geothermal heat
The extraction of geothermal heat can play an important role in the energy transition. It is one of the important sources within the sustainable energy supply. In the Netherlands we now produce 3.5 petajoules of geothermal heat per year, but that share should grow in the future. It is expected that geothermal energy will produce about a quarter (200 PJ) of the total demand for heat in the Netherlands by 2050. Much remains to be done in terms of more efficient drilling. It must become more cost-effective, with continued attention to safety. In short, many technical innovations are needed. The RCSG offers the possibility to develop and test these innovations under the high pressure and temperature conditions present in the subsurface.
Accessible for companies
The centre is accessible to companies that want to experiment with new drilling techniques and materials (or want to test them), for geothermal heat or other sustainable applications. It gives them access to modern facilities that would otherwise be difficult or impossible for them to use. The companies do not have to invest in testing facilities themselves. This is normally far too expensive, leaving potentially beautiful inventions unused.
The centre has 20 installations covering the whole spectrum of underground drilling. There is a large drilling installation above an almost 400-metre-deep well, in which new materials and techniques can be tested. There are hydraulic presses of 300 and 400 tonnes, pressure vessels of up to 1,000 bar and piping systems for pumping in and testing fluids. Underground conditions can be realistically imitated to determine how materials and components behave under high pressure or at high temperatures at depths of kilometres.
The partners about the innovation lab
Ton de Jong, director TNO EnergieTransitie on the RCSG:
“The sustainable use of the subsurface has been on the TNO research agenda for years. This concerns the extraction of low and high temperature heat from the subsurface, the temporary storage of energy in the subsurface and the storage of CO2 during the decommissioning of the fossil energy system. The RCSG makes it possible for companies and knowledge institutes to take major steps in the transition to a sustainable energy system in close cooperation through the development of new technology”.
Jan Willem Hoogstraten, ceo Energie Beheer Nederland (EBN):
“The future of our sustainable energy supply rests above ground for an important part on the value and knowledge of our Dutch subsurface. The centre helps to develop technology that is directly applicable to the social and economic development of the Dutch subsurface. EBN wants to help accelerate the energy transition with knowledge, technology and innovation. The centre can play an important role in this, as well as in developing and strengthening growth markets such as geothermal energy and the storage of CO2, hydrogen and heat”.
Sandor Gaastra, Director-General at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate: “Geothermal energy can make an important contribution to making our heat supply more sustainable. The geothermal sector is a relatively young sector that is developing strongly. A low-threshold opportunity to experiment with new techniques and materials offers an opportunity to accelerate that development considerably”.
Berend Potjer, Energy Commissioner, Province of South Holland:
“We are proud that this centre is in our province because it enables us to remain at the forefront of geothermal energy. After all, we have already built up a lot of expertise in this field and that’s not surprising: Zuid-Holland soil is very suitable for geothermal heat as a source. What’s more, in this densely populated province we have a great demand for heat. So supply and demand come together nicely. After the pioneering work of the past few years, it is now time to scale up and improve the supply.
Armand van de Laar, alderman of the municipality of Rijswijk:
“In addition to its contribution to the energy transition, this project also provides great added value for the development of the area. This investment creates new activity and dynamics in the Plaspoelpolder. Rijswijk welcomes all visitors and customers of the new test centre. Other companies that want to make an impact on a sustainable world and are looking for space for office, production or laboratory can also visit the Plaspoelpolder. Innovation and an attractive business climate go hand in hand here”.