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 is 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 are expected to participate in pilot projects in various regions (Heerenveen for Vermilion), with the intention to develop those projects by 2020.
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 by the end of 2018, with 200 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 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 mid-2020 for this project.