Geothermal paper drying

The aim of the »geothermal paper drying« project is to develop steam generation to dry paper. This project is being carried out by the company Kabel Premium Pulp & Paper on the basis of deep geothermal heat from Devonian carbonates in the ground under the city of Hagen. In addition to Fraunhofer IEG and those responsible at Kabel Premium Pulp & Paper itself, the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT is also working on the project. The project is set to run until 31 December 2022. The project is being funded by the EU and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Geothermal paper drying - geothermal exploration and exploitation concept

In the paper industry, large quantities of industrial process heat in a temperature range of between 100 °C and 200 °C to dry the paper towards the end of the production cycle. The steam is usually generated in central systems and from fossil fuels such as natural gas. In order to decrease the ecological footprint, in other words the CO2 emissions, of the paper industry and to save long-term costs, the project »Kabel Zero« has been set up in the Kabel Premium Pulp & Paper (KPPP) paper factory in Hagen. The aim of this project is to ensure sustainable paper manufacturing by using geothermal energy in the drying process. The »geothermal paper drying« project is the first step in the overarching »Kabel Zero« project. The main objective is to explore the subsurface and to design geoscientific and technical exploitation concepts. The KPPP company location in Hagen fundamentally offers promising conditions for building a deep geothermal and hydrothermal doublet in the future. On the one hand, the »Großholthausener Sprung«, a regionally significant fault zone, runs through the company site. This means there could be increased rock permeability at the location. According to the Geological Service of North Rhine-Westphalia, Devonian carbonate formations are also expected to be present at an estimated depth of approximately 3,200 m to 4,100 m. These geological units are potential deep geothermal reservoirs as experience from district heat supply in the Munich area has shown.

Vibroseis trucks for seismic data acquisition.
© DTM-Group
Vibroseis trucks for seismic data acquisition.
Data acquisition during the seismic campaign using the so-called vibroseis method.
© CEM - University of Texas at Austin
Data acquisition during the seismic campaign using the so-called vibroseis method.

A seismic campaign around is being carried out around the KPPP company to identify the location of the overlapping of Devonian reef limestone and the large-scale fault zone such as the Großholthausener Sprung. As part of this, two converging 2D seismic lines are recorded using special trucks in what is known as the vibroseis process to generate a picture of the substructure.

The assessments from the seismic exploration form the basis for further project steps such as the sinking of a 300 m to 500 m deep, partially cored exploratory drill into the flat areas of the fault zone and petrophysical laboratory tests of the Devonian carbonate to determine its geothermal reservoir potential. Promising results then lead to the conversion of the exploratory drilling into monitoring drilling to monitor the future operation of the deep hydrothermal doublet in the same fault zone. A detailed 3D substructure model will also be created using the seismic exploration, the exploratory drilling including the associated borehole measurements and the laboratory results. This will then be used to develop an underground exploitation concept for the hydrothermal doublet. A sensitivity analysis of the geothermal plan operation with respect to the fluctuating input parameters such as reservoir temperature or permeability aims to increase the security of future investments in the large-scale »Kabel Zero« project. Fraunhofer IEG also does PR work – particularly in advance of the seismic exploration and the exploratory drilling – and works with Fraunhofer UMSICHT to optimise the above-ground systems. Fraunhofer UMSICHT in Oberhausen develops the above-ground process engineering, thereby ensuring that the steam needed for the paper drying process has the correct properties such as the right temperature etc. can be obtained from the geothermal energy. The project is managed by responsible persons from Kabel Premium Pulp & Paper in Hagen.

Project partners



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