Applied Geosciences

Within the Applied Geosciences (AGS) expert group, we conduct research on geo-energy within the context of the energy transition and climate change. Technologies that help to reduce CO2 emissions are central to our work. Our group consists of around 70 employees, one-third of whom are international employees. We publish much of our research in scientific journals and public reports.

Research areas

Within AGS, we conduct applied geoscience research in various research areas (domains). We are working on the capture and storage of CO2  (CCS;  carbon capture and storage), geothermal energy, the efficient production of oil and gas and its safe phasing out, systems integration, and underground energy storage.

The research in these areas is partly carried out by specialised teams: Geology, Geomechanics, Geophysics, Reservoir Characterisation and Optimisation, and Well Technology.

CO2  capture, reuse, and storage

We have been researching the safe underground storage of CO2 since the early 1990s. We are a leading research group within international research programmes, through which we have gained knowledge to support the development of storage projects. We led the national research programme, CATO, which covered all aspects of underground CO2 storage .

AGS combines a geoscientific foundation with knowledge developed specifically for CO2 storage in:

  • Feasibility studies of potential carbon dioxide storage sites
  • Monitoring and risk studies
  • Regulations and capacity estimates

AGS is primarily focused on the development of CO2 storage, in close cooperation with research on CO2 transport. We are focusing on the accelerated development of storage projects, especially in depleted gas fields, for which storage safety and security are central. In doing so, we work together with gas field operators, energy-intensive industry, and public authorities. An example of this is our commitment to the Porthos consortium

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is a high-potential source of sustainable heat and electricity. It could meet between five and ten percent of the energy demand in energy-intensive regions. Theoretically, forty percent of the world’s energy demand could be produced sustainably through the flow of natural heat in the earth. Our focus is on so-called geothermal aquifers in sedimentary basins and on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). We particularly apply our knowledge in relation to:

  • Technology development in research programmes aimed at efficient production (for example, innovation in the field of EGS)
  • Estimates of geothermal potential and feasibility studies
  • Monitoring programmes and risk studies
  • Technical support for public authorities and industry (including SMEs), especially in large-scale urban (re)development projects and international partnerships
  • The integration of locally produced heat or electricity into smart grids

An integrated result of our research is the development of the web-based geographic information system, ThermoGIS

Efficient production and safe phasing out of oil and gas production 

Regarding mining activities (such as oil and gas exploration and production), geothermal production, and CO2 storage , it is very important to understand the safety risks, long-term effects, and possible consequences for other uses of the subsurface. Within AGS, we develop methodologies and technologies to assess and monitor these risks. Our expertise mainly lies in the modelling and interpretation of geomechanical risks, such as soil subsidence and induced seismicity. We are also developing models and methodologies to estimate the probability of well leaks. We do this both for existing wells and wells that are being plugged and abandoned after the end of their production life.

We also help energy companies develop strategies to optimise and make sustainable the production and storage of hydrocarbons, CO2 , or geothermal energy. We do so by feeding information from measurements back into reservoir models and then predicting future effects of unchanged or optimised use of the subsurface. The resulting strategies mean that oil and gas companies can, for example, reduce their environmental footprint and emissions by requiring fewer wells when developing an oil or gas field.

Energy storage and system integration

The transition to a CO2-free energy system that uses sources such as wind and solar energy places demands on the availability of flexibility and storage, as supply and demand fluctuate widely in the short term (hours) and over longer periods (seasons). Options for large-scale storage will be partly sought in the subsurface and will therefore compete with other uses of the subsurface. Therefore, in addition to the development of specific (subsurface) storage technologies, it’s also important to consider the strategic value of these other options for the use of the subsurface.

Moreover, the broader diversification of the energy system (with unpredictable sources, changing demand, and a diversity of energy carriers) requires smart  integration. Within AGS, we develop specific flexibility and integration technology, focusing on the sustainable use of the subsurface, now and in the future. One example of this is the North Sea Energy project, in which we are working with our partners to investigate how the North Sea infrastructure can be used for wind energy generation, hydrogen production, and the underground storage of CO2. We are also investigating the technical and economic feasibility of technologies for large-scale energy storage in the subsurface, and their role and potential for incorporation into the energy system (LSES; Large Scale Energy Storage project).

Laboratories and fieldwork

We have several laboratories in which applied research is being conducted. 

  • In the IM4Rock geomechanics lab, we are working on determining the strength of (deep) rock layers. This research is important for assessing and reducing the risks of microseismicity, for example in geothermal energy generation or oil and gas production. 
  • In the Rijswijk Centre for Sustainable Geo-energy, we are experimenting with new drilling techniques and materials for geothermal energy or other sustainable applications. We are able to conduct these experiments at high pressure levels and temperatures.
  • Aside from laboratory work, we also regularly carry out fieldwork, both in the Netherlands and abroad. We conduct both geophysical fieldwork (in which we map the subsurface using sound waves) and geological fieldwork (in which we study the spatial relationships in rock layers at the surface, because they can serve as examples for rock layers deep underground elsewhere).

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View the publications of Applied Geosciences via the blue button below with the ‘publications’ label.

Behind the scenes at the Applied Geosciences expert group