As a key part of the low-carbon transition, Vermilion is leveraging the proof-of-concept established in France to develop renewable energy projects in our operations in The Netherlands. There, the Dutch Energy Agreement (DEA) is targeting a 400% increase in renewable energy contribution from 4% in 2013 to 16% in 2023. We are playing an important role by demonstrating that, beyond using natural gas as a lower carbon transition fuel, synergies exist between natural gas production and green or renewable energy. We are also using our core business, based on geoscience expertise and our existing infrastructure to investigate several important avenues for supporting the DEA’s target.
Vermilion was one of seven companies to partner with the Dutch government, EBN (a natural gas exploration and production company owned by the government) and TNO (a Dutch non-profit for applied scientific research) to investigate ultra-deep (4,000 metres) geothermal energy that would produce the high heat needed by industrial energy customers. We signed the Green Deal in 2017 as an important step in establishing the regulations, technologies, standards and understanding needed to develop ultra-deep geothermal energy. Companies involved participated in pilot projects in various regions (Heerenveen for Vermilion), with the intention to develop those projects by 2020.
As part of our participation, we undertook a geological evaluation of the available 3D seismics. From this, we have concluded that the required Dinantien carbonate platform in Heerenveen is probably not present. So, although we certainly see the possibilities for ultra-deep geothermal in the Netherlands, we consider the opportunities for the successful development of a project at this specific location in Heerenveen within the frameworks outlined to be too small. This means that our consortium was not able to sign the cooperation agreement that marks the next phase of the Green Deal program. We are proud of what has been achieved in a short time within the partnership in the Green Deal UDG, however, and are pleased that the other six consortia will continue the program.
Work to convert two of our depleted gas wells in Middenmeer, in North Holland, to geothermal production is underway, including integrity checks and technology refits. This project is expected to supply first heat in the first quarter of 2020, with 200 to 250 cubic metres of water per hour. This will support a nearby regional agriculture hub with approximately 10 to 15 MWh of energy, or up to 30% of their heat demand. The hub – Agriport A7 – is one of the largest contiguous greenhouse areas in Europe, with 320 hectares and 9 tomato-producing customers.
This work in Noord Holland focuses on developing geothermal assessment plans on new gas drilling prospects so that a single drilling operation can address the potential of both natural gas and geothermal energy opportunities. It makes good economic sense: geothermal projects are currently economically viable only in very good reservoirs and with subsidies. Combining gas and geothermal exploration increases the return on investment significantly.
In Harlingen, we are investigating the production of biogas from low-grade biomass such as verge grass, manure, straw and wood. This project involves cleaning and upgrading the biogas to green gas at our Harlingen Treatment Centre, with the potential to process and dry the green gas to produce fertilizer. We are aiming at 2021 for this project.
We are pleased to be partnering in a project that will see 1,800 solar panels placed on the roofs of our offices in Harlingen, producing approximately 0.5MW of energy that will be exported to the national energy grid. This project is a key part of our intention to play a sustainable role in the areas where we are operating. The project, which includes our partners NPG Energy and Ludan Renewable Energy, is currently in the installation layout phase.