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GEOPRO in Hengill: Interview with Thomas Ratouis

Fri, 14 August, 2020

Reykjavik Energy (OR) and its subsidiary ON Power (Iceland) operates two high-enthalpy geothermal power plants at Hengill, Hellisheidi  and Nesjavellir by utilizing subcritical geothermal fluids with temperatures of approximately 250-320°C. The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) was founded in 2000 with the purpose of targeting and extracting supercritical geothermal fluids for energy production. It is representative for fluid problems related to supercritical geothermal resources and is the third case study for GEOPRO alongside Insheim (Germany) and Kizildere (Turkey). As our key stakeholder, Thomas Ratouis, describes GEOPRO as a project with major benefits to geothermal industry.

About Thomas Ratouis

I was born on the 29th of March 1988 in France and have completed a Master in reservoir engineering from l’Ecole Nationale Superieure de Geology in Nancy, France. After working for a year in Paris for an engineering company specialising in the development of district heating capabilities in the Paris area, I moved to New Zealand to complete a Master of Energy at the University of Auckland in 2012. This is where I found my passion for geothermal energy and spent seven years working on various geothermal development projects in New Zealand.  Two and a half years ago, I had the opportunity to come to Iceland to work as the geothermal modeller on the CarbFix project for Reykjavik Energy. Since then I have been involved in many exciting projects such as this one, GEOPRO.

Can u tell us about the uptake of geothermal energy/geothermal energy market in Iceland?

Geothermal energy has always been an important part of Icelandic culture. Locals love to soak in the hot pots at the neighbourhood swimming pools. It is by far the most important social venue of Icelandic society and one that I’ve learned to really appreciate. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that geothermal energy provides two thirds of Iceland’s primary energy supply. Electricity generation has increased drastically from the early 2000 to 2017 when the latest geothermal plant was commissioned. Geothermal power plants now account for approximately one-quarter of all electricity generated and consumed in Iceland, and geothermal fluid is used for space heating and hot water requirements of around 87% of the nation’s housing. Geothermal energy has been key for the Icelandic economy and Iceland’s energy independence. In the past few years there has been an effort to maximise the efficiency of existing infrastructures as well as developing cascade use of the geothermal energy for other means. Traditionally space heating, bathing, and fish farming but also algae production, manufacturing of photovoltaic modules, and even atmospheric CO2 capture!

Do u see any change in market due to the pandemic? How did it affect your company?

We are seeing some decline in demand in the energy market. Reykjavik Energy services more than half of the Icelandic population by providing electricity, hot water, potable water, waste water treatment, and optic fibre to the southwestern part of Iceland. Therefore, we took some harsh measures at the start of the Corona virus outbreak to be able to continue our services during the pandemic. Our operations haven’t been interrupted by COVID 19 but we did take measures to curb the spread of the virus in our community.

Do you see geothermal energy as part of the COVID-19 post recovery package?

Absolutely. COVID 19 has highlighted that although we live in a world that is more connected than ever, we need to develop our resources locally. This is probably the most exciting thing about geothermal energy, i.e. its scalability. It is possible to use geothermal energy at almost every range,  from a single house to providing hundreds of Megawatts of electricity. Secondly, I believe it made us question and appreciate what we have, that is clean and renewable energy. How to preserve and how to best use it. This is especially true for a country like Iceland, an island with a small population located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean close to the Arctic Circle.

What are the big benefits of projects like GEOPRO? Do you think projects like GEOPRO can drive the future of geothermal energy?

The way we see it there are three major benefits of project such as GEOPRO. First is pure science. The project will address some key knowledge gaps that have been identified by research institutes and the geothermal industry. It is very exciting to have a project that will produce new data specifically scaled to industry issues.  Second, the close cooperation between research institutes and geothermal operators. This allows for a feedback loop between science and industry, which is important to ensure that the knowledge and tools developed are suitable for the industry to optimize sustainable geothermal reservoir management, power and heat production and re-injection strategies. And lastly, sharing expertise on an European level; we have much to share and much to gain from such a consortium.


Thomas Ratouis, Reservoir Engineer, Reykjavik Energy