As part of broader geoscience research, the University of Geneva has also been involved in geothermal research for Switzerland as we learn in this interview.
Among the countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement and committed to fighting climate change, Switzerland as another country has set its own path towards achieving its stated goals. Switzerland sees itself at the forefront of implementing concrete steps to tackle the challenges presented by climate change.
In an interview shared with the Swiss publication The Map Report, Prof. Andrea Moscariello of the University of Geneva in Switzerland provided a good overview of the ongoing research work by his group in Switzerland. Professor Andrea Moscariello has led the Geo-Energies research group at the University of Geneva’s Department of Earth Sciences for the past 10 years following a long international career in the hydrocarbons industry.
Prof. Moscariello, for many years has been interested in fundamental and applied research on topics related to geo-energy. Could you please explain to us what was discussed more precisely?
“My group’s research focuses primarily on the geo-energy contained in the sedimentary basins, in other words the geographic areas where most of the large human settlements are located and the soil layer is mostly water contained, and a lot of energy and mineral resources. , which are fundamental to industrial society and civilization. The issues we tackle cover a wide range of topics that require approaches at different scales aimed at understanding how these sedimentary basins form, fill, evolve over time and how and where they can accommodate energy resources (i.e. hydrocarbons, geothermal energy, and water) “.
How does your research work in the context of the energy challenges and global warming?
“The current energy challenges faced by our research group make this subject an attractive work area requiring a multidisciplinary approach and intelligent use of all kinds of classical and more advanced analytical methods and techniques. We have many geothermal support projects underway, these ranging from in-depth studies both in the field and in the laboratory to using state-of-the-art 3-dimensional geo modeling tools that aim to describe the rock in the subsoil quantitatively. process genetics and transformations over time and to simulate the fluids flowing through them. However, without the extraordinary assistance of public and private organizations, all these fundamental and applied research activities would not be possible ”.
We clearly conclude that in Switzerland there is a real commitment from the public and private sectors to find concrete steps towards the goal of zero CO2 emissions.
“Fundamental and applied research has always been a priority activity for Switzerland, which has always excelled in technological innovation.
The importance of cutting-edge scientific research is confirmed by the fundamental support of the Federal, again demonstrated by the recent budget approved by the Swiss parliament for the four-year period 2021-2024 of CHF4.6 billion, which is dedicated exclusively to scientific research. Part of this funding will undoubtedly be dedicated to energy and climate challenges in the years to come. At the same time, the Confederation has implemented very concrete steps to encourage the search for deep geothermal sources that will allow it to replace in the medium and long term the current use of hydrocarbons, non-renewable fossil energy, for heat production. and energy. electricity. An important example is provided by the CO2 law. “
In this favorable context both for research and innovation and for industrial activities devoted to geothermal research, what is being done in Switzerland?
“In the last 5 years we have seen a large number of civic and national initiatives aimed at the establishment of virtual competency centers that allow for building fruitful collaborations between academia and industry to enhance new data and information. This collaboration and integration makes it possible to better understand the subsoil and reduce the risks associated with deep well drilling. At the regional level, since 2014 the Canton of Geneva and their industrial energy services (GIS), which have collaborated with my research group for many years, have shown clear leadership in promoting geothermal research by continuing to invest a lot of financial resources, including blessings. federal assistance, and with very encouraging results.
After the seismic events caused by the Basel geothermal well in 2006 and St. Gallen in 2012 and the discovery of methane gas in 2012, exploration of deep geothermal resources appears to have no future. However, from what he described, it doesn’t seem so
“Events in Basel and St. Gallen certainly had a negative impact on public perceptions and created a certain distrust of these profound projects. The great resistance shown by some communities to the Haute Sorne project in Jura is of course also related to this negative experience. Drilling deep wells certainly carries risks but modern technology, especially those developed in the oil industry, makes it possible to mitigate and reduce these risks both in the design phase and in the well execution phase. On the other hand, after the Basel events, great work to raise awareness and education of the population was carried out by the City of St. Gallen has allowed much higher reception for earthquakes caused in 2012 than it did. that happened in Basel. Negative surprise at St. Gallen is actually an unexpected discovery of methane gas. “
Based on the events described and the possible presence of hydrocarbons underground, do you think that deep geothermal exploration will continue in Switzerland?
“Our research has confirmed that the accumulation of gases exists throughout the Swiss highlands but in all the cases we have studied these volumes are very small which can be managed with the necessary and well-known technological tools. Therefore, this accumulation should not hinder the search for alternative energy sources such as geothermal energy. In this case, the well of St. Gallen today, about 4200 m deep and still accessible today, but with the risk of being definitively cemented and abandoned, the risk becomes a symbol of the inability to figure out how to manage the resources offered to us from underground and an example of negative public investment. This well, on the other hand, is a wonderful opportunity to show the public that regardless of geological uncertainty and unforeseen events. “
Source: Map Report