Drilling for geothermal energy too economically risky

Industry calling for state to share drilling risk

There is the potential to use geothermal heat to cover a third of Denmark’s district heating needs, but no company is willing to take the risk of drilling to harness the energy, the engineering trade publication Ingeniøren reports.

The problem is that drilling the 2.5 kilometres necessary to access the heat is an extremely expensive affair and there is significant risk of missing the target. It is all but impossible to have the operation covered by commercial insurance so, if the project fails, the end users of the company that undertook it often foot the bill.

Guarantee scheme called for
When the district heating company Viborg Fjernvarme, in central Jutland, failed to access the cheap and environmentally friendly energy it was after, customers had to pay an extra 850 kroner a year.

District heating companies are calling for a national guarantee scheme, whereby the companies and the state would share the risk for drilling investments. Such programmes are already in operation in France and the Netherlands. But the Danish government has repeatedly rejected these proposals.

Danger for future energy needs
Søren Berg Lorenzen, the head of the national geothermal company Dansk Fjernvarmes Geotermiselskab, told Ingeniøren that there is the risk that district heating companies drop geothermal energy completely in favour of other energy sources. “They will typically invest in biomass power instead,” he said.

Anders Dyrelund, a district heating and energy-planning specialist at the engineering and consultancy firm Rambøll, explained that, there will be serious need for geothermal energy in northern Europe when the other, more easily accessible energy sources have been exhausted. “It’s important that we start now to slowly establish plants so we can develop and optimise the technology before we seriously need it,” he said.