Vito gets closer to harnessing geothermal energy
The middle phase of a local project exploring the extraction of geothermal heat from the earth is complete, and forecasts suggest the process could eventually provide enough energy to heat 800,000 homes
Third phase set to begin
Geothermal energy is based on touching the heat of the deep layers of the earth, where temperatures are naturally higher than at the surface. At the Vito site in Mol, Antwerp province, drilling went down to 3,610 metres, to the 350-million-year-old limestone layer under the ground, where the temperature reaches 138 degrees Celsius. When pumped to the surface, the water from that layer retains a temperature of 126-128 degrees, which allows it to be used for heating.
In the second phase of testing, it was found that water could also be returned to the limestone layer, in order to be reheated and pumped back out, creating a closed water loop. A second drilling to re-introduce cold water reached a depth of 3,830m, with the tests on the reintroduced water being completed in September last year.
The site is now ready to install a power station on the surface where water will be pumped up from the depths, used as a source of energy and then re-injected into the limestone layer to be reheated naturally, for the cycle to be repeated. Works on the third phase are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
After that, other sites in the region, also served by the underground limestone layer, will be investigated. According to forecasts, the layer could provide enough power from the natural heat of the earth’s crust to supply 80 geothermal plants in Antwerp and Limburg provinces, providing heat for 800,000 homes.
Photo courtesy: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
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