They wake up Kiskunhalas from the “dream of Sleeping Beauty”

It will soon be revealed how the EU-Fire Group will make use of its well in Kiskunhalas. So far, it has not been able to take action on the well drilled years earlier because it has been hampered by regulation. Now, deep in the well, an alternative is visible that is suitable for both thermal energy and power generation.

Before we move on to the EU-Fire project in Kiskunhalas, it is worth clarifying a few basic points.

  • Two separate project plans were prepared for the conversion of the district heating system in Kiskunhalas (to geothermal energy), but only one project was launched – and it fulfilled all its commitments.
  • The basics of geothermal energy still, that it is revealed what is in the depths when drilling reaches the desired level. Although existing research data and test conclusions may reduce the risk, approximately 20 percent of drilling does not find the burning thermal water needed to operate a geothermal power plant.
  • Even though there is no water, nowadays there is essentially no dead project if the so-called foot temperature of the depth reached is adequate. It is another matter that regulatory rigidities delay the “sharpening” of alternative solutions for many years.

In the first half of this year, the EU-Fire Group will decide what will be the fate of its well in Kiskunhalas, which, although there is no water in the depths, has a suitable foot temperature (137 degrees Celsius).

Thus, there are several obvious solutions for its utilization. One of the most promising is the “pipe in the pipe” technology, with the help of which it is possible to generate both thermal energy and electricity.

(The essence of the method is that the system presses technical fluid into the 140-degree earth layer in a thinner tube, and then, after the heated liquid returns in the wider tube, its thermal energy can be extracted using a heat exchange system.)

As a reminder, the EU_Fire Group drilled a 2500-meter-deep well in Kiskunhalas in 2016, but despite the probable tests, carried out at the bottom, that the drill was moving in the right direction, it had to be stopped at this point. This is because domestic legislation requires a special concession procedure if the participants of the geothermal market wish to go below 2500 meters. The acquisition of the concession, on the other hand, imposes an administrative, professional and financial burden on geothermal solutions companies that no project with a long-term return on investment can withstand.

As to why the EU-Fire group has not used the research so far , the so-called sponsorship contract provides the answer to this question. The drilling was partly financed by our group of companies with money won in the EEA/Norway Fund tender (see later), and one of the conditions for providing the grant was a five-year maintenance period – even if the project does not find water in the depths. This also means that it is not possible to deviate from the technique included in the tender and to apply alternative solutions for a period of five years. In other words, during these five years, the well could not be utilized.

And then comes the background

The EU-Fire Group wrote a tender in 2014: as a result of a project with a total cost of HUF 2.8 billion, it planned to convert Kiskunhalas’ district heating-heated homes and institutions to geothermal energy, and if possible, it also intended to serve industrial players. According to the preliminary calculation, about 1 billion HUF of tender resources (European Union/Hungarian government support) were needed for the realistic implementation of the planned project. However, this money was not provided by either EU or domestic decision-makers, citing the drilling risk mentioned in the fundamentals. Thus, the EU-Fire Group decided not to embark on a project that would create all elements of the geothermal system as part of the same process (production well, purchase and installation of a well pump, injection well, construction of the terrestrial units of the power plant).

The situation was clear: The EU-Fire Group can only successfully channel support for the energy transition of Kiskunhalas if it is able to eliminate the drilling risk, or at least minimise it. There was also an opportunity. This is because the EEA/Norway Financial Mechanism launched a research tender aimed at exploring the geothermal potential and exploitation of a given area, including test drilling. The EU-Fire Group has taken advantage of this opportunity. (After all, if the test drilling is successful, it will be possible to rethink the original – 2.8 billion – project plan, and after the risk has been ‘eliminated’, the granting of aid is justifiable to be likely. If, on the other hand, the test drilling does not live up to the expectations, the exploration project can be completed faster, more efficiently, and the losses can be minimized.)

Drilling difficulties

It is a cliché that Hungary thermal water superpower, but, as has been said, about 20 percent of thermal well drilling attempts still end in failure – often failure is achieved even if another one is drilled a few hundred meters from a working well. This is due to the fact that the Pannonian Basin is cut by countless so-called seeders (seismic fault lines), along which tectonic movements have rearranged the layers of the earth, so it may happen that the aquifers are located elsewhere on both sides of the seeder. And this is revealed only in the case of drilling.

The EEA/Norway Fund found the tender of the Kiskunhalasi Geothermal Project Ltd., founded and owned by the EU-Fire Group and Kiskunhalas, to be worthy of support, and at the end of May 2016 the parties signed the sponsorship agreement. The project (name: Utilization of geothermal heat in the castle and district heating system of Kiskunhalas) was implemented by Kiskunhalas Geothermal Project Ltd. from a total of about HUF 1.352 billion. About 34 percent of this amount (HUF 460 million) was provided by the EEA Financial Mechanism, with the domestic enterprise taking in 0.892 billion.

Kiskunhalasi Geothermal Project Ltd. fully complied with the project sponsorship contract, and by the spring of 2017 it had completed a 2500-meter-deep well and purchased the well pump necessary for its operation. (That’s why the website has the “completed” clause, and the green check mark.)

However, against the promising preventive studies, there was no water in the achieved layer. It should be noted that this did not affect the completion of the project (which, according to the provisions of the sponsorship contract, had to take place no later than December 2017), the EEA/Norway Fund declared the Project to be successful and completed.

And the original 2.8 billion plan, drawn up in 2014, never went live.