Drilling to 4.5 km depth

The EPOS-eNLarge project includes plans to drill a 4.5 km deep well for scientific monitoring. We’ve asked TU Delft Prof. Phil Vardon and project manager Dr. Susanne Laumann about this.

Q: How special is a 4.5 km deep well? A: It’s pretty unusual to do this and even more unusual to do so for science. There are more than 4000 boreholes deeper than 1km in the Netherlands, yet only 50 deeper than 4.5km and only 9 of these are onshore. Of these, these were mainly drilled to explore for oil and gas and therefore have limited data available, and there is only one borehole which is not abandoned. The last of these boreholes was drilled around 20 years ago. This is the first time a monitoring well as deep as this has been drilled in a geothermal system. Q: Why so deep? Why do we care what happens at 4.5 km? A: Two reasons. First, we want to monitor the fluid flow from the geothermal wells on campus. In the geothermal system hot water is extracted from the so-called producer well and cold water re-injected in the injector. Both of these wells are located at a depth of around 2.5 km. The rocks in which the geothermal project is installed have varying flow-through properties. The hot and cold fluids will therefore move heterogeneously through these rocks, and we want to understand how it does so. We have to drill deeper than the 2.5 km of the well, in order to be able to monitor this process in three dimensions. Secondly, we want to investigate the geothermal potential of deeper geological formations with high temperatures >120 °C, that are suitable for electricity production. In the Netherlands, shallower formations are usually exploited, where the cooler temperatures are much less suitable for generating electricity. The deep formations are likely to be fractured and have lower permeability, such that the flow behaviour may be more complicated. This calls for research. Q: What can you do with this well? A: We will use it for seismic and electromagnetic monitoring of an operating geothermal system, as well as for in-depth research on various geological formations (by taking cores and performing geophysical logging). We consider this to be a multipurpose borehole. While we have detailed plans, we also think the opportunity of drilling to such depths should be exploited beyond the geothermal aspects. We know that the samples and data will be in high demand, so we will organise a workshop before detailed designing and drilling to ensure we make maximum use of the opportunity to undertake such a special project. We will get additional input from an international and multi-disciplinary group of people from science, geothermal industry, governmental institutions and geological surveys. Q: When will this well be drilled? A: Within the next 5 years. Drilling this deep requires a lot of preparation, starting from finding the best location, permitting and having a well thought out design. We are eager to get started though, and will be making detailed plans!

18 million granted for EPOS-eNLarge

Increased use of the subsurface, for example for geothermal energy production or subsurface storage, is crucial for achieving the (inter)national goals for greenhouse gas emissions. Today it was announced that EPOS-eNLarge, a research project that focuses on efficient and safe use of the Dutch subsurface, is one of the projects to be awarded through the Dutch Research Council (NWO) large-scale research infrastructure call. The 10-year project will receive €17.9 million from NWO.


The project, a collaboration between Utrecht University, TU Delft, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), and the TNO Geological Survey of the Netherlands, aims to produce a physics-based understanding of the subsurface. It will provide the research capabilities to improve our understanding of micro-processes in the subsurface. And of how these control the large-scale behavior during geo-energy production or fluid storage. One of the key goals is to increase efficient use of geothermal energy, ultimately accelerating the number of geothermal projects being deployed in the Netherlands.

Open access to research data

The research project will ensure that unique data from the Dutch subsurface is openly available and centrally accessible through EPOS, the European research infrastructure for solid Earth sciences. EPOS-eNLarge builds on the research project EPOS-NL, which integrates large-scale geophysical facilities in the Netherlands into a coherent infrastructure for research into geo-societal challenges.

From nanometer to kilometer

“This grant opens up a barrel of possibilities for research into the impact of human use of our subsurface,” says Martyn Drury, EPOS-eNLarge scientific director and researcher at Utrecht University. “It is critical to understand such impact at all relevant scales: from nanometer to kilometer. And then to share our findings internationally through the EPOS data portal. We are all very excited that we can now set up the means to enable this.”

EPOS Multi-Scale Lab data catalogue updated!

Go and have a look! (link)

This catalogue is being developed by the EPOS-NL and EPOS-Multi-Scale Labs teams to provide a single access point for solid Earth scientific laboratory data, published at a multitude of data repositories across Europe. Multi-Scale Lab data includes data from the following disciplines:

  • Analogue modelling of geological processes
  • Geochemistry
  • Microscopy and Tomography
  • Paleomagnetism
  • Rock and Melt physics

The updated catalogue includes an innovative filtering system for discovery of data relevant to your research. This filtering system makes use of newly updated and internationally harmonized metadata schemas developed for each and across the various Multi-Scale Lab research disciplines. The metadata schemas include a taxonomy, meaning that you can search increasingly specific for the data you’re interested.

Interested in a particular material type? See for which materials the catalogue provides access to data for.

Interested in data from a particular discipline? Or geological setting (e.g. subduction zone)? Explore the different filters to see which data may be relevant to you.

Go check it out (link)! One disclaimer: the catalogue is work in progress –  so may contain inconsistencies or errors. These will be resolved in due time, and we ask for your understanding in the meantime. Nonetheless, if you wish to report some of the errors you encounter – let us know by mailing to info@epos-nl.nl.

Upcoming developments for period Q4 2022 – Q3 2023:

  • Addressing ‘sample location’ – to move towards showing data publications on the map
  • Publishing Community approved keyword lists online – i.e. on the MSL data catalogue. Format RDF, Jason and Excel.
  • Approach more European data centers for harvesting by MSL catalogue. Starting with 4TU.RD, BGS and MagIC. At present, the catalogue presents data publications from GFZ, Yoda, and CSIC
  • Catalogue user testing in Q2/Q3 2023

EPOS-NL Annual meeting held with 100 participants

The free-of-charge, hybrid (in-person and online) meeting focussed on:

  • The latest developments on research at a geothermal well, being installed at Delft University of Technology
  • Research performed by Facility Access participants – who received free-of-charge access to Dutch, Earth scientific labs last year…
  • …and on how you can apply too!
  • Exciting new subsurface data that can now be accessed, and improved means to easily navigate these and other international data from a single access point

Did you miss the meeting? The meeting presentations can be downloaded here.

Large dataset Groningen gas field made openly available

Great news!
A large seismological dataset (50 TB) pertaining to the Groningen gas field (largest gas field in Europe) has now been published openly by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). The data were originally acquired by the field operator, the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), who provided the data to KNMI for publishing in the context of the national research infrastructure EPOS-NL.

 The data describe measurements made from early 2014 to late 2018, using:

  1. A flexible geophone network, consisting of 400 surface stations on a grid of 350 by 350 meters. This network was successively deployed in different areas across the Groningen field.
  2. Downhole monitoring arrays, in the Stedum, Zeerijp and Harkstede wells of the Groningen field. These downhole geophones were located near the reservoir interval at ~3 km depth.  

These datasets are truly unique in terms of the high geo-phone density, partially at reservoir depth near earthquake hypocenters, and in being derived from a vast gas field that has been showing Earthquakes since the early ‘90s. Data are provided compressed (total compressed size ~25 TB), and can be downloaded in digestible < 1 TB portions on the KNMI data platform. The EPOS team is now striving to make these data centrally findable via the EPOS central data portal, where it can be found along with other European, solid Earth scientific data.

To all interested seismologists, multi-disciplinary researchers, and/or generally or casually interested researchers: have a look at the presentation given by KNMI data scientist Jarek Bienkowski on this dataset at the EPOS-NL annual meeting held on 8 November, and/or go directly to the data on the KNMI data platform! It’s open!

(image from KNMI website)

In-situ pressure data Dutch subsurface available

This isn’t exactly ‘news’, as this data portal has been online since 2020. But for those of you who had not yet seen it: EBN and TNO have jointly developed an excellent data portal for openly published data on pore fluid (formation) and lithostatic (leak-off) pressure data, pertaining to the Dutch subsurface (< 5 km; both on- and offshore). In-situ temperature measurements down to 5 km are also available. You can access the portal via the EBN data centre (see Pressure SNS data base), or directly via this link to the Spotfire interface. Go and have a look!

Core photos Groningen gas field published

Great news!

A new dataset has been published by the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), through EPOS-NL. This open access dataset constitutes photographs of core slabs (core-parallel slices) taken from the reservoir intervals of 67 cored wells in the Groningen field and surrounding areas.

The Groningen gas field is the largest gas field in Europe and has been showing seismicity since the 1990s. The approximately 200 meter thick gas reservoir is situated at ~3 km depth, and comprises Permian (Slochteren) sandstone from the Rotliegend formation. The reservoir has been cored extensively by NAM. Each core has been sectioned (cut vertically) and all sections have been photographed. The resulting photograph database allows for detailed inspection of sedimentological features of the Rotliegend reservoir of the Groningen Field. This dataset further includes a web-based core Image viewing tool developed in-house by NAM. This tool allows for scrolling through photos of individual wells with zoom-in functionality at different magnifications.   

Access the data here  

7 applications for latest Facility Access call

The third call for Facility Access was open from 10 March – 17 April 2022. We received 7 applications for access to the Multi-scale Imaging and Tomography (MINT) facilities at Utrecht University and Delft University of Technology, the ESL High Pressure and Temperature (HPT) Lab at Utrecht University, and the Delft Petrophysics Lab at Delft University of Technology.

In addition, EXCITE, a European network to provide access to a wide range in Microscopy and Tomography facilities also received many applications to get access.

It’s great to see that there’s so much interest for research facilities developed within EPOS-NL and EXCITE, and to welcome all these projects and collaborations that, without Facility Access, may not have been initiated!   

Facility Access call now open

A third call for proposals is open from 9 March to 17 April 2022 to get free of charge access to top EPOS-NL research facilities in the Netherlands, notably:

  • The ESL High Pressure and Temperature (HPT) Lab at Utrecht University
  • The Petrophysics Lab (DPL) at Delft University of Technology
  • The Multi-scale imaging and tomography (MINT) facilities at Utrecht University and Delft University of Technology

Capabilities include X-ray (CT) scanning, Scanning Electron Microscopy, micro-chemical mapping, triaxial compression testing and shear (friction) testing.

NB: this call, MINT is accessible for Netherlands-based researchers only. Researchers outside the Netherlands can apply for access to MINT via the next call of the recently launched EXCITE program, expected this Summer. The ESL-HPT lab and the DPL are accessible for researchers worldwide, including the Netherlands.

Click here for more information.