The exploratory borehole will first be professionally evaluated and then expanded into a seismological observatory by Fraunhofer IEG when the borehole will become part of a network of monitoring stations for the deep underground in the Weisweiler area. At the beginning of next year, a second exploratory borehole, up to a depth of about 500m, is to be drilled next door. Fraunhofer will then install a geothermal probe there to supply the observatory.
"Hot water from the depths is used to supply heat in many European cities and can also become an alternative, climate-friendly heat source in North Rhine-Westphalia," Prof. Rolf Bracke, director of Fraunhofer IEG, said. "Aachen has benefited from this domestic energy source for heating buildings since Roman times. With this project, we want to demonstrate the modern contribution of geothermal energy to municipal heat planning and collect the data we need on the way to the heat transition in the southern Rhineland."
District heating supply
If the thermal water is hot enough, it can replace fossil fuels such as natural gas and lignite in the district heating supply, for example. Successful examples are provided by plants in Munich, Paris and the Netherlands. In combination with large-scale heat pumps, geothermal energy can also supply many processes in NRW industry with sustainable heat.
A technologically new building block of the energy transition for our region
RWE Power Board Member Dr Lars Kulik added: "District heating from thermal water - that would be a technologically new building block of the energy transition for our region. A district heating pipeline runs from the Weisweiler site to Aachen. If, one day, renewable district heating flows through them, this will be another tangible contribution by RWE to regional structural change, just like our wind power and solar projects here in the coalfield."
Data and insights
There are still many steps to be taken on the way to heat supply with deep geothermal energy. It is often a matter of obtaining very local, meaningful data as a basis for subsequent decisions. The boreholes in Weisweiler are expected to provide new data and insights into the sequence of earth layers in the region. On the basis of the two boreholes, a deep exploratory borehole could later be drilled under the direction of Fraunhofer IEG to search for thermal water. Recent studies by Fraunhofer IEG show that deep geothermal energy could cover at least a quarter of Germany's current heat demand. The geothermal potential of NRW is particularly high. Geological explorations such as drilling and seismic surveys are mandatory for development.
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