Nordic states' drilling sector on the rise

Eugene Gerden provides GDI with a deep view of the state of the drilling industry in the countries that collectively make up the Scandinavian region.

 Krafla is the largest of the many geothermal power station operating in Iceland

Krafla is the largest of the many geothermal power station operating in Iceland

The geotechnical drilling sector of Nordic states - the historical region in Europe, which consists of such countries as Norway, Denmark, and Sweden etc, is steadily developing this year, which is reflected in the acceleration of activities in the sector, caused by general stabilisation of energy prices and moderate growth of local economics.


Traditionally, a significant part of drilling activities in the Nordic region has been observed in its groundwater sector. Even though all of the countries in the region are located in good climatic conditions in terms of access to both surface and groundwater, some droughts, which have been observed in the Scandinavian region in recent years have confirmed the importance of the further development of groundwater sector of all the regional states and drilling of new artesian wells in the most "problematic" areas and zones of the country.

In the case of Sweden - the biggest country of the region in terms of area and population - while the country generally has good access to water there are exceptions and in the south-eastern area of the country, including the islands of Öland and Gotland, where the issues of water scarcity have been in focus for a long time. In this regard, the drilling of new artesian wells in these areas is currently considered one of the priorities for the Swedish government and local authorities.

It is planned that additional funds will be provided by the state for local organisations that are responsible for assessing and researching groundwater levels in Sweden, such as Geological Survey of Sweden, for their work mapping groundwater supplies and measuring levels to provide a more accurate image of the current situation in the sector.


Of the regional states, probably the biggest success in the field of groundwater development and management in recent years has been achieved in Denmark. Here, drinking water comes entirely from groundwater which is carefully protected and managed sustainably. While nearly one-third of the Danish population lives within the Capital Region of Denmark, the region takes up less than 5% of the country's total area. Despite this, the provision of the country's capital Copenhagen with clean groundwater is currently one of the priority goals for the Danish government.

According to the International Water Association, in Denmark, various conservation strategies have been put in place to preserve groundwater and reduce water demand as part of ambitious plans by the local state to make the entire water sector of the country climate positive by 2030.


Finally, in the case of Norway, according to the local Dagsavisen business paper, a record drought in the country in 2018 unveiled some serious problems with the country's groundwater reserves and its management by local authorities, particularly the Geological Survey of Norway, which is one of the administrative bodies with national expertise in groundwater.

Currently, there are more and more calls from the Norwegian public for the introduction of a more efficient system of mapping and monitoring groundwater reserves in the country, that could be used for further development of the sector.


In the meantime, given the limited volume of hydrocarbon reserves in the region (except oil-rich Norway) the development of renewables, in particular geothermal energy, has always been within the sphere of interests of regional governments and investors.

In Sweden, geothermal energy has so far been utilised to a very limited extent

Historically, the development of the geothermal sector in the Nordic region has been carried out in different ways, depending on the country. For example, in Sweden, geothermal energy has so far been utilised to a very limited extent. In Skåne, the municipality of Lund, the southernmost of the historical provinces of Sweden, there has been a system in operation since the mid-1980s, and it has now supplied the district heating network with a quarter of the energy for 30 years.

Still, despite the generally low level of development of the Swedish geothermal sector, there is an ever-growing interest in the country in the development of so-called deep geothermal systems in the crystalline bedrock based on the EGS technology. Among other goals of existing projects in the country is the aim to reach temperatures that make it possible to switch the obtained energy directly to district heating systems.


In contrast to its neighbour Sweden, Denmark's interest in geothermal is on the rise. This is mainly due to legal acts that have been adopted by the country's Parliament recently.

In March the Danish Parliament adopted a new law that paves the way for Denmark's first large-scale geothermal plant in Aarhus, which is expected to be the largest of its kind in the EU. The district heating company Kredsløb and the geothermal company Innargi A/S are among the investors in this large project, which by the end of 2030 is expected to be able to cover approximately 20% of the district heating demand in Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark, which is located on the eastern shore of Jutland in the Kattegat sea.

"Our ambitious climate goals make it necessary to use all green energy technologies. With the new rules, we are paving the way for green heat from the underground to 35,000 Aarhusian homes by providing also good conditions for investments," the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Supply, Lars Aagaard, said.

In Denmark, geothermal energy is estimated to be able to cover up to 15-20% of the heating demand, while work is already underway to more actively use geothermal energy in the capital Copenhagen and some of the other larger cities of the country, such as Holbæk and Skanderborg.

"Similar projects are already being worked on in other cities, and I hope that in the long term, these can follow Aarhus' example so that we make full use of the hot water and more Danes are supplied with green heat from the underground," Aagaard added.

Local analysts believe the successful implementation of these plans will provide a major impetus for the development of the Danish geothermal sector for years to come.


In addition to Sweden and Denmark, the development of the geothermal sector is well established in Iceland, the regional state, which has the status of the world's leading country in terms of the use of geothermal energy.

That takes place through the expansion of the already existing projects in the sector. For example, Landsvirkjun, Iceland's national power company, and Iceland Drilling have recently agreed to drill two exploratory wells in preparation for the planned expansion of the 90MW Theistareykir geothermal power plant. It is expected that drilling will commence shortly. According to some Icelandic media reports, the Theistareykir geothermal power plant was commissioned in 2018 and is considered to have one of the smallest carbon footprints among geothermal plants.

The planned expansion of the Theistareykir plant is part of the earlier announced plans of Iceland's government for accelerating both geotechnical drilling and research activities in the country to find new geothermal areas, that will ensure additional volumes of geothermal energy production in the country.

Given the current status of Iceland as the world's leading country in the field of geothermal, it is planned the share of such energy in the overall energy structure of the country will continue to grow in years to come (from the current 66%)

For this purpose, the country plans to increase its knowledge of geothermal energy in low-temperature areas, in so-called cold areas, in high-temperature areas and in areas within the eruption zone that are not obvious high-temperature areas. As part of these plans, additional research activities will be focused on surface measurements of geophysical and geological properties.

There are also some big plans for the development of geothermal energy in Norway. In contrast to Iceland, with its volcanic activity (which means that geothermal energy is close to the surface being easy to obtain), Norway does not have as easy access to geothermal heat. However, having the status as one of the leading oil producers in the world, Norway is converting an existing well-developed drilling industry, which has previously focused on oil drilling, into an industry that drills for geothermal heat.

According to experts of the Norwegian TB.NO magazine, there is no need to establish a new energy sector in the country, while many of the existing jobs in the oil sector will be re-oriented within the geothermal sector.

Got a story? Email: