Susanna Galloni - Research Programme Offi cer, DG RTD, EC
Susanna Galloni is a Research Programme Offi cer in the Renewable Energy Sources Unit of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. She is responsible for research and innovation policy activities and for the management of research projects in the area of geothermal and wind energy. Susanna holds a Master of Engineering degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Krafl a, Iceland © Ásgeir Eggertsson
Past Research and Innovation in the Seventh Framework Programme
EGS, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, represent an opportunity for Europe to increase the number of viable geothermal sources for the production of electricity and/or heat, and build on the positive results obtained by the Soultz-sous-Forêts FP6 (Framework Programme 6) project. Under the Framework Programme 7 (FP7) two important projects were funded to tackle the main challenges that deep geothermal projects, and in particular EGS, face: mitigation of induced seismicity and reduction of project risks.
During operation of a geothermal plant water warms up while it circulates through the fractures of a reservoir. Seismicity is or might be induced during the so called "stimulation" phase, when water is injected at high pressure into a wellbore in order to open or widen fractures in the hot rock and create or improve a geothermal reservoir. Induced seismicity represents an important EGS technical issue that triggers public concerns and limits the public acceptance of geothermal energy.
Geothermal energy projects require high initial investments, mostly during the drilling phase. In case a well is not successful, i.e. the pre-conditions for exploration, as determined during the planning and design, are not met then the capital loss is large. As a result of such financial risks, the number of newly initiated geothermal projects, in particular of EGS projects, is therefore limited. In order to reduce the risk of these projects it is necessary to improve the way in which geothermal resources are assessed and to introduce new, or a combination of, methodologies.
To respond to these two challenges FP7 funded two projects. The project GEISER (Geothermal Engineering Integrating Mitigation of Induced Seismicity in Reservoirs) focused on investigating and mitigating seismicity induced during hydraulic stimulation. While under the project IMAGE (Integrated Method Advanced Geothermal Exploration Understanding Processes Properties Improve Techniques Integrate Predictive Model) a reliable science-based exploration and assessment method is being developed to reduce the risks of failures of geothermal projects. Most of the FP7 budget for geothermal energy was devoted to these two projects whereas a third area funded was heat pumps.
Mitigation of Induced Seismicity
The GEISER project started in January 2010 and lasted 3.5 years. It was implemented by a consortium of 13 participants and it addressed all aspects of scientific, technological and social issues related to seismicity associated with the development of EGS projects. Researchers studied the data collected during stimulation at different European and non-European sites in different bedrock types (sedimentary and granitic). During the course of the project a better understanding of the key parameters that control induced seismicity in response to an injection was developed.
The achieved results and the project main activities are published in the Project Final Report available in the CORDIS database. The project developed a comprehensive probabilistic framework for the assessment of seismic hazards and risks, and it produced guidelines for safe and reliable EGS operations. It produced an advanced "traffic light system" to be utilized during all phases of a geothermal project (Figure 1). This system is a dynamic tool that is reliable if rock physics data and seismic data, with models updated from real-time monitoring, are available. The system allows adjustments during operation activated by the monitoring information that is fed into it.
Figure 1: Advanced Traffic Light System.
Legend: W = weighting; GMPE = ground motion prediction equation; EGF = empirical green’s function; PSHA = probabilistic seismic hazard assessment (figure taken from GEISER Project Final Report, project coordinator Dr. Ernst Huenges, GFZ).
The GEISER research results and guidelines produced, among other things, strategies for EGS operations with induced seismicity and they are an important step forward to help unlock the potential of geothermal energy in Europe.
Imagining Geothermal Reservoirs to Reduce Risks
IMAGE is a large 4-year project that started at the end of 2013. The EC contribution is over EUR 10 million and the consortium includes 20 participants from industries, research institutions and universities. As summarized in the project website "the objective is to develop new methods to scrutinise and appraise geothermal systems in such a way that exploration wells can be sited with greater accuracy than before, thereby maximizing the success rate and reducing the cost of drilling associated with geothermal projects. In addition, such precision wells would reduce any potential environmental impact." 
The research covers both magmatic and basement/sedimentary geological conditions to which the developed interdisciplinary approach and research methods will be applied. The participation of industrial partners and the number of test sites that is to be used during the different phases of the project positions IMAGE very close to industrial applications and make it instrumental in lowering the risks of geothermal projects.
Research in the geothermal field in Horizon2020
With long-term goals in mind, it is therefore now essential to maintain momentum and funding in this sector. Within the Horizon 2020 programme, the EU aims to go the extra mile in supporting research and development. With a view to promoting a clean low-carbon European economy, catalysing the growth of the geothermal energy sector was foreseen under the first H2020 Work Programme of 2014-2015. For this, the focus of the Work Programme is on developing and demonstrating next generation technologies for renewable electricity and heating and cooling. For both deep and geothermal energy the challenge was to reduce drilling costs as they represent a significant share of the total costs of geothermal installations. The Work Programme also addresses the need to increase the number of geothermal plants in Europe and as a natural continuation of the previous work programmes it includes a call on EGS testing in different geological environments. The call deadline is in May 2015.
The next Work Programme 2016-2017 foresees addressing further research and innovation needs in the geothermal field. In particular, for both shallow and deep geothermal energy, there is room for improvement of components and systems, as well as prolonging the life cycle of facilities to lower the cost of energy as much as possible and to increase the contribution of geothermal energy, particularly heating and cooling, to the energy mix. In addition, public acceptance considerations of technologies have to be addressed.
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