Meet the (guest) scientist #15 – Estelle Petitclerc

GeoConnect³d is promoting a series of four short online sessions on the week of the 22 June to discuss four specific topics around our Roer-to-Rhine area of interest (crossing Belgium-France-Germany-Luxembourg-Netherlands). We are pleased to introduce our guest external speakers, GeoConnect³d speakers and organising team behind these events in our ‘Meet the Scientist’ series.

Estelle Petitclerc obtained her Master in Toulouse University (France) and she joined the Geological Survey of Belgium in 2005, where she has been overseeing geothermal-related projects for 11 years. She is involved as much in deep geothermal as in shallow geothermal research topics through regional, national and EU projects: subsurface exploration (direct and undirect methods), potential reservoirs identification and mapping, thermal characterisation for optimising shallow geothermal application and geo-economic modelling for assessment of the geothermal sector development in Belgium.

Estelle currently coordinates of the GeoCamb project (Braine-2.0, Belspo) which aims to determine the Brabant Massif geothermal potential. She is work package leader of the geothermal exploration and potential assessment of Brussels Capital Region in the BruGeo project (ERDF-Brussels) and she also manages the activities related to the Brussels pilot-case in the scope of the MUSE project (Geo-ERA) which investigates resources and possible conflicts of use associated with the use of shallow geothermal energy (SGE) in European urban areas.

Her involvement in deep geothermal is mainly linked to DGE-ROLLOUT (Interreg NWE) where she leads the Mapping and Networking work package and is responsible for the Walloon geophysical surveys. In thus, she contributes to the MEET project aiming at boosting the use of Enhanced Geothermal System in various geological contexts.

She is a member of NGOs promoting the development of women in Science/Geothermal (BeWISE and WING).

You can find her on ResearchGate, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Why geothermal energy?

After working in fundamental research on magnetic properties of middle Devonian rocks and getting more and more familiar with the Belgian geology, Estelle put a first foot on geothermal energy 11 years ago with the ThermoMap project (EU/ICT-PSP). And her connexion with the theme never stopped. Estelle: “Geothermal energy represents a field that is both multidisciplinary and exciting, with many challenges in Belgium.”. Above all, the wish to invest time and energy in an environmentally friendly, promising technology but unknown and underexploited renewable energy sector was obvious and met her needs to give a deep meaning to her applied research.

Regarding shallow geothermal energy, Estelle sees that, although the Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) technology in Belgium just entered the stage of diffusion, it is a technology that still has to find its place on part with other heating technologies. Estelle: “Meanwhile, the technology is continuously shaped in the interplay between users, engineers, installers, and administration. The negotiations in this interplay must deal with upcoming uncertainties, for example  environmental effects of high number of GSHP in small areas, and this is one of the challenges investigated in the MUSE project.”.

For deep geothermal energy, Estelle says the take-off of the sector is still very shy in Belgium, even though two reservoirs (Campine and Mons Basin) already proved that the geothermal resource is there. To allow a full development of this technology, major deep underground investigations (or geophysical surveys) in Wallonia will be undertaken in a near future under her responsibility. Estelle : “It will be a great scientific breakthrough allowing us to finally understand the geometry of the Midi-Eifelian thrust belt and identify geothermal potential in Dinantian reservoirs.”.

Many topics in one

For Estelle, being a geologist is a very varied job also requiring field work, which she finds interesting. Moreover, working in the field of geothermal energy requires knowledge in a wide range of topics in the geosciences such as geology, sedimentology, mineralogy, tectonics , hydrogeology, geophysics, 3D modelling, geochemistry… And the list goes on! Estelle: “I particularly like the fact that you must be very multidisciplinary and be in a process of continuous learning.”.

Collaboration between projects

For Estelle, GeoConnect³d and DGE-Rollout are projects that have obvious interactions because they both deal with deep geothermal energy in the same region of interest. Estelle :”Each project is very beneficial for the other thank to new insights concerning methodology, approaches and data.”.