In the Netherlands geothermal energy would seem a promising renewable source for heating homes and offices at a municipal level and for heating industrial greenhouses. Aquifers that are of potential interest for heating purposes occur at depths of less than 1000 m to more than 3000 m in Permian, Lower Triassic and Lower Cretaceous/Upper Jurassic sandstones and in two Tertiary sand units. In total, ca. 90000 PJ (more or less equivalent to the energy content of the huge Groningen gas field) of heat in place (HIP) may be present in these deep Dutch aquifers. The fraction of this energy that may eventually be produced successfully, however, depends strongly on location-specific reservoir properties.
Whereas The Netherlands are already fairly advanced in shallow geothermal energy with roughly 600 Seasonal Heat & Cold Storage installations, in the 1980s to 1990s several deep geothermal evaluation projects were carried out, but these did not lead to any application of deep geothermal energy.
Since 2000, there has been a resurgence of interest in the use of deep geothermal heat in the Netherlands in the last years. The inspiration for this has been broad based. In addition to the Kyoto agreement, which encourages governmental institutions to explore the use of renewables, the sharp rise in gas and oil prices is forcing private enterprises to consider the use of alternative energy sources. Recent studies show that geothermal energy is now highly competitive with other forms of energy. Under the new Dutch Mining Law in 2003 large quantities of geological information on the subsurface became available and this is enabling a proper assessment of the subsurface conditions for geothermal applications. Moreover, this law regulates the production of geothermal energy, giving it a firm base in the Dutch legal system. Earlier, in 2002, Senter-Novem initiated the founding of a Dutch Geothermal Platform in which several actors such as governmental bodies, energy companies, R&D institutes and consultancies are participating to promote the use of geothermal energy and to lobby for a subsidiary programme for green heat.
Today the first two deep geothermal projects are being developed/constructed in the West Netherlands Basin, both in Lower Cretaceous sandstones: in Bleiswijk a horticultural enterprise is currently producing geothermal energy from 1750 meter depth and in The Hague an urban housing project is in development, which will use geothermal energy produced from 2100 meter depth. Currently some 10 additional project initiatives for direct use are also on track. This renewed interest for the earths’ interior heat in the Netherlands also initiates the proper R&D climate for the exploration of EGS opportunities in depth ranges below 3000 m.