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Modelling of surface and shallow subsurface data is getting more and more advanced and is demonstrated mostly for onshore (hydro)geological applications. Three-dimensional (3D) modelling techniques are used increasingly, and now include voxel modelling that often employs stochastic or probabilistic methods to assess model uncertainty. This paper presents an adapted methodological workflow for the 3D modelling of offshore sand deposits and aims at demonstrating the improvement of the estimations of lithological properties after incorporation of more geological layers in the modelling process. Importantly, this process is driven by new geological insight from the combined interpretation of seismic and borehole data. Applying 3D modelling techniques is challenging given that offshore environments may be heavily reworked through time, often leading to thin and discontinuous deposits. Since voxel and stochastic modelling allow in-depth analyses of a multitude of properties (and their associated uncertainties) that define a lithological layer, they are ideal for use in an aggregate resource exploitation context. The voxel model is now the backbone of a decision support system for long-term sand extraction on the Belgian Continental Shelf.
On the basis of dissociated and scattered skull bones and several types of scutes and scales of a single, large-sized individual, a new species of dercetid is recorded from the lower to middle portion of the Maastricht Formation (upper Gronsveld, Schiepersberg or Emael members) as formerly exposed at ’t Rooth quarry near Bemelen, east of Maastricht, the Netherlands. This new taxon, Pelargorhynchus grandis n. sp., the fifth dercetid recorded to date from the type area of the Maastrichtian Stage, is characterised by the presence of both large, smooth scutes and small ornamented scales, by the degree of curvature of skull bones, the presence of unfused premaxillae and the lack of teeth.
Here we report on a newly collected, well-preserved vertebral centrum of a plesiosaur from the type area of the Maastrichtian Stage in southern Limburg. The specimen is interpreted as a caudal vertebra that originated from an osteologically immature or juvenile individual, as evidenced by the position of the pedicular facets, the presence of a notochord pit and the absence of fused neural arches. It adds to the meagre record of sauropterygians in the area.
A stacked aeolian sequence with intercalated soils is presented from the southern Netherlands, which fully covers the Late Weichselian and Holocene periods. An integrated sedimentological (sedimentary structures, grain size), palynological (pollen) and dating approach (radiocarbon, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL)) was applied to unravel climatic and human forcing factors. The dating results of soils and sediments are compatible, and no large hiatuses between the radiocarbon-dated top of the soils and OSL-dated overlying sands were observed. It is argued that the peaty top of wet-type podzols can be used for reliable radiocarbon dating. This study reveals more phases than previously known of landscape stability (Usselo Soil and two podzol soils) and instability (Younger Coversand I and II, two drift-sand units) that are related to Late Weichselian climate change and Holocene human occupation. Regional aeolian deposition in source-bordering (river) dunes (Younger Coversand II) took place in the second part of the Younger Dryas, after 12.3 ka cal. BP, implying a delayed response to Younger Dryas cooling, vegetation cover decline and river pattern change of the Scheldt. The onset of podzolisation and development of ericaceous vegetation occurred prior to the introduction of Neolithic farming, which is earlier than previously assumed. Early podzolisation was followed by a short phase of local drift-sand deposition, at c.5500 cal. BP, that possibly relates to agriculture. Strong human impact on the landscape by deforestation and agriculture resulted in a second phase of widespread drift-sand deposition covering the younger podzol soil after AD 1000.
Faults in the Roer Valley Rift System (RVRS) act as barriers to horizontal groundwater flow. This causes steep cross-fault groundwater level steps (hydraulic head differences). An overview of the size and distribution of fault-related groundwater level steps and associated fault zone permeabilities is thus far lacking. Such an overview would provide useful insights for nature restoration projects in areas with shallow groundwater levels (wijstgronden) on the foot wall of fault zones. In this review study, data on fault zone permeabilities and cross-fault hydraulic head differences were compiled from 39 sources of information, consisting of literature (starting from 1948), internal reports (e.g. from research institutes and drinking water companies), groundwater models, a geological database and new fieldwork. The data are unevenly distributed across the RVRS. Three-quarters of the data sources are related to the Peel Boundary Fault zone (PBFZ). This bias is probably caused by the visibility of fault scarps and fault-adjacent wet areas for the PBFZ, with the characteristic iron-rich groundwater seepage. Most data demonstrate a cross-fault phreatic groundwater level step of 1.0 to 2.5 m. Data for the Feldbiss Fault zone (FFZ) show phreatic cross-fault hydraulic head differences of 1.0 to 2.0 m. In situ measured hydraulic conductivity data (K) are scarce. Values vary over three orders of magnitude, from 0.013 to 22.1 m d−1, are non-directional and do not take into account heterogeneity caused by fault zones. The hydraulic conductivity (and hydraulic resistance) values used in three different groundwater models are obtained by calibration using field measurements. They also cover a large range, from 0.001 to 32 m d−1 and from 5 to 100,000 days. Heterogeneity is also not taken into account in these models. The overview only revealed locations with a clear cross-fault groundwater level step, and at many locations the faults are visible on aerial photographs as cropmarks or as soil moisture contrasts at the surface. Therefore, it seems likely that all faults have a reduced permeability, which determines the size of the groundwater level steps. In addition, our results show that cross-fault hydraulic head gradients also correlate with topographic, fault-induced offsets, for both the Peel Boundary and the Feldbiss fault zone.
This article attempts to identify the main ‘above-ground’ factors which impact on the contribution that geothermal energy can make to the Dutch Energy Transition, and to draw conclusions about these factors. Recent literature sources are used to illustrate the size of Dutch heating demand, and the part of this which can be provided by geothermal energy. Consideration is given to the impact of off-take variability over time, showing that the base-load nature of geothermal doublets acts as a restraint on the share which they can take in the energy supply. The characteristics of district heating grids are discussed. Other potential sources of heat are considered and compared.
The conclusion is that geothermal energy can provide a material contribution to the energy transition. This depends to a large extent on the existence of and design choices made for the development of district heating networks. Large size and standardisation, and the development of seasonal heat storage, are beneficial.
Unlike most other renewable sources of heat, which have alternative ‘premium’ applications such as the provision of ‘peak capacity’ or molecules for feedstock, geothermal energy is not suitable for other uses. The emission savings that it can provide will be lost if other heat sources are chosen in preference as supply for district heating, so that it makes sense that district heating infrastructure should be designed to encourage the use of geothermal energy where possible.
On 26 June 2018 Waldo Heliodoor Zagwijn died at the age of 89. He was an Emeritus Professor of the Faculty of Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. As a geologist, palynologist and palaeobotanist he focused on developing a stratigraphy of the Netherlands based on changes in vegetation and climate. The Dutch setting of a subsiding basin, and the clear signal of a sequence of glacial–interglacial cycles, was promising. As early as the late 1950s it became clear that the Quaternary Period included more than the previously assumed four ice ages in the Netherlands. In his PhD thesis Zagwijn defined the start of the Quaternary around 2.5 million years before the present (2.5 Ma). The international community accepted Zagwijn’s arguments after he retired. He showed how the rivers Meuse, Scheldt and Rhine had built the Netherlands in four dimensions. He is the instigator and architect of the climate- and chronostratigraphy of the Quaternary Period of Western Europe.
In the Netherlands, the bulk of the Miocene to lowest Pliocene sedimentary succession is currently assigned to a single lithostratigraphical unit, the Breda Formation. Although the formation was introduced over 40 years ago, the definition of its lower and upper boundaries is still problematic. Well-log correlations show that the improved lecto-stratotype for the Breda Formation in well Groote Heide partly overlaps with the additional reference section of the older Veldhoven Formation in the nearby well Broekhuizenvorst. The distinction between the Breda and the overlying Oosterhout Formation, which was mainly based on quantitative differences in glauconite and molluscs, gives rise to ongoing discussion, in particular due to the varying concentrations of glauconitic content that occur within both formations. In addition, the Breda Formation lacks a regional-scale stratigraphic framework which relates its various regionally to locally defined shallow marine to continental members.
In order to resolve these issues, we performed renewed analyses of material from several archived cores. The results of archived and new dinocyst analyses were combined with lithological descriptions and wire-line log correlations of multiple wells, including the wells Groote Heide and Broekhuizenvorst. In this process, the updated dinocyst zonation of Munsterman & Brinkhuis (2004), recalibrated to the Geological Time Scale of Ogg et al. (2016), was used. To establish regionally consistent lithostratigraphic boundaries, additional data was used along a transect across the Roer Valley Graben running from its central part (well St-Michielsgestel-1) towards the southern rift shoulders (well Goirle-1). Along this transect, chronostratigraphic and lithostratigraphic analyses were integrated with well-log correlation and the analyses of seismic reflection data to constrain geometrical/structural relationships as well.
The results led to the differentiation of two distinct seismic sequences distinguished by three recognisable unconformities: the Early Miocene Unconformity (EMU), the Mid-Miocene Unconformity (MMU) and the Late Miocene Unconformity (LMU). The major regional hiatus, referred to as the Mid-Miocene Unconformity, occurs intercalated within the present Breda Formation and compels subdivision of this unit into two formations, viz. the here newly established Groote Heide and the younger Diessen formations. Pending further studies, the former Breda Formation will be temporally raised in rank to the newly established Hilvarenbeek subgroup, which comprises both the Groote Heide and Diessen formations. Whereas these two sequences were already locally defined, a third sequence overlying the LMU represents two newly defined lithostratigraphical units, named the Goirle and the Tilburg members, positioned in this study at the base of the Oosterhout Formation. Besides their unique lithological characteristics, in seismic reflection profiles the Goirle and the Tilburg members stand out because of their distinct seismic facies.
Use of an integrated, multidisciplinary and regional approach, an improved southern North Sea framework and more comprehensive lithostratigraphic subdivision of Neogene successions is proposed for the Netherlands, to make (cross-border) correlations more straightforward in the future.
The Pannonian basin in Central Europe is well known for its rich geothermal resources. Although geothermal energy has been utilised, mainly for direct use purposes, for a long time, there are still a lot of untapped resources. This paper presents novel methods for outlining and assessing the theoretical and technical potential of partly still unknown geothermal reservoirs, based on a case study from the Dráva basin, one of the sub-basins of the Pannonian basin along the Hungarian–Croatian border. The presented methods include reservoir delineation based on combining geological bounding surfaces of the Upper Pannonian basin-fill units with a set of isotherms deriving from a conductive geothermal model. The geothermal potential of each identified reservoir was calculated by a Monte Carlo method, which was considered as being represented by the heat content of the fluids stored in the effective pore space (‘moveable fluid’). The results underline the great untapped geothermal potential of the Dráva basin, especially that of the reservoir storing thermal water of 50–75°C, which has the largest volume and the greatest stored heat content.
Hydraulic fracturing is a long-established method of stimulating a well to improve the inflow or outflow potential. Hydraulic fracturing is the most successful stimulation method used by the oil and gas industry, and is also used for water injection and production wells around the world, even for drinking-water wells. Hydraulic fracturing creates a crack in the earth that is then filled with a highly conductive material (proppant). This fracture has a large inflow area compared to an unstimulated wellbore and provides a high-permeability path for the fluid to flow in or out of the reservoir.
Hydraulic fracturing has a long history of being used in hot dry rock (HDR) geothermal applications since the 1980s (Murphy & Fehler, 1986). In those often very tight reservoirs, the aim is to create fracture networks that generate the reservoir flow capacity. In high-permeability formations, fracturing can potentially double the productivity of a well. In low-permeability formations, well performance can be increased by a factor of 5–10 in most cases.
In this paper, we focus on two different scenarios of geothermal stimulation. The first is for permeable, porous formations where the heat exchange happens through the perfect contact between the fluid and the porous reservoir. Stimulation may then be necessary to create a small fracture if the pressure drop near the well is too large due to insufficient reservoir permeability. The other scenario is a formation at great depth, where the formation permeability is so extremely small that very long propped fractures would be needed to obtain sufficient flow or even where the porous system does not provide sufficient heat exchange but the heat exchange has to be facilitated by an artificial or stimulated fracture network: a so-called Enhanced Geothermal System.
For porous, permeable formations we will present examples of fracture treatments that can increase the flow rate so that the economics of the project is improved. In some formations, stimulation is then a contingency in case of poorer than expected reservoir quality. A worst-case well with a large skin value of 20 can perform with stimulation like a base-case unstimulated well. In other formations, stimulation will be integral to well design in order to optimise the project performance. For those cases the Coefficient of Performance can be improved from 7 to 25 with the aid of stimulation.
In Ultra-Deep Geothermal (UDG) recovery, the targets are reservoirs below 4000 m, because industrial heat demand requires a minimum temperature of 120°C up to 250°C. For an economic business case, the rate over a period of 15 to 25 years should be from 150 to 450 m3 h−1, depending on the boundary conditions.
Shallower reservoirs in the Netherlands often show very high permeability, but at great depth the target layers could have very low permeability (Veldkamp et al., 2018). Several stimulation methods can be used, of which hydraulic fracture stimulation with water (proppantless) is the primary candidate. Other stimulation methods are propped fracturing in sandstone, acid fracturing in carbonates and thermal stimulation.
For a geological play that is attractive for UDG in the Netherlands, the most likely stimulation method is with water fracturing, because propped fracturing would require a huge amount of proppant that is very costly. Based on analogues and conceptual designs, the expected flow rate is estimated under selected boundary conditions.
The decline of domestic natural gas production, increasing dependency on gas imports and lagging development of renewable energy production may pose serious challenges to the current high standards of secure energy supply in the Netherlands. This paper examines synergy between hydrocarbon- and geothermal exploitation as a means to reinforce energy security. The Roden gas field is used as an example to demonstrate potential delay of water breakthrough in the gas well and a resulting increase of recovered gas (up to 19%), by positioning of a geothermal doublet in the water leg of the gas field. The reservoir simulations show that the total increase of gas production primarily depends on the amount of aquifer support. An optimal configuration of gas- and geothermal wells is key to maximise gas recovery and strongly depends on the distribution of reservoir properties. The study also reveals that this option can still be beneficial for gas fields in a late stage of production.
Net Present Value calculations show that the added value from the geothermal doublet on total gas production could lead to an early repayment of initial investments in the geothermal project, thereby reducing the overall financial risk. If no subsidies are taken into account, the additional profits can also be used to finance the geothermal project up to break-even level within 15 years. However, this comes with a cost as the additional profits from improved gas recovery are significantly reduced.
Geothermal energy is a viable alternative to gas for the heating of buildings, industrial areas and greenhouses, and can thus play an important role in making the transition to sustainable energy in the Netherlands. Heat is currently produced from the Dutch subsurface through circulation of water between two wells in deep (1.5–3 km) geothermal formations with temperature of up to ∼100 °C. As the number of these so-called doublets is expected to increase significantly over the next decades, and targeted depths and temperatures increase, it is important to assess potential show-stoppers related to geothermal operations. One of these potential hazards is the possibility of the occurrence of felt seismic events, which could potentially damage infrastructure and housing, and affect public support. Such events have been observed in several geothermal systems in other countries. Here we review the occurrence (or the lack) of felt seismic events in geothermal systems worldwide and identify key factors influencing the occurrence and magnitude of these events. Based on this review, we project the findings for seismicity in geothermal systems to typical geothermal formations and future geothermal developments in the Netherlands. The case study review shows that doublets that circulate fluids through relatively shallow, porous, sedimentary aquifers far from the crystalline basement are unlikely to generate felt seismic events. On the other hand, stimulations or circulations in or near competent, fractured, basement rocks and production and reinjection operations in high-temperature geothermal fields are more prone to induce felt events, occasionally with magnitudes of M > 5.0. Many of these operations are situated in tectonically active areas, and stress and temperature changes may be large. The presence of large, optimally oriented and critically stressed faults increases the potential for induced seismicity. The insights from the case study review suggest that the potential for the occurrence of M > 2.0 seismicity for geothermal operations in several of the sandstone target formations in the Netherlands is low, especially if faults can be avoided. The potential for induced seismicity may be moderate for operations in faulted carbonate rocks. Induced seismicity always remains a complex and site-specific process with large unknowns, and can never be excluded entirely. However, assessing the potential for inducing felt seismic events can be improved by considering the relevant (site-specific) geological and operational key factors discussed in this article.
The majority of running geothermal plants worldwide are located in geological settings with convection- or advection-dominant heat transport. In Germany as in most regions in Europe, conduction is the dominating heat transport mechanism, with a resulting average geothermal gradient. The geothermal play type concept is a modern methodology to group geothermal resources according to their geological setting, and characteristic heat transport mechanisms. In particular, the quantity of heat transport is related to fluid flow in natural or engineered geothermal reservoirs. Hence, the permeability structure is a key element for geothermal play typing. Following the existing geothermal play type catalogue, four major geothermal play types can be identified for Germany: intracratonic basins, foreland basins and basement/crystalline rock provinces as conduction-dominated play types, and extensional terrains as the convection-dominated play type. The installed capacity of geothermal facilities sums up to 397.1 MWth by the end of 2018. District heating plants accounted for the largest portion, with about 337.0 MWth. The majority of these installations are located in the play type ‘foreland basin’, namely the Molasse Basin in southern Germany. The stratigraphic unit for geothermal use is the Upper Jurassic, also known as ‘Malm’ formation, a carbonate reservoir with high variability in porosity and permeability. Recently drilled wells in the southernmost Molasse Basin indicate the Upper Jurassic as a tight, fracture-controlled reservoir, not usable for conventional hydrothermal well doublets. Our new data compilation including the recently drilled deep geothermal well Geretsried reveals the relation of porosity and permeability to depth. The results suggest that obviously diagenetic processes control permeability with depth in carbonate rock, diminishing the predictability of reservoir porosity and permeability. The play type concept helps to delineate these property variations in play type levels because it is based on geological constraints, common for exploration geology. Following the general idea of play typing, the results from this play analysis can be transferred to geological analogues as carbonate rock play levels in varying depth.