Value Chain for Geothermal Energy

Project Participants:

Prof. Dr. Rolf Bracke (HS Bochum)
Prof. Dr. Michael Häder (HS Bochum)
Dipl.-Biol., M.Techn. Stephan Exner (HS Bochum)
Dipl.-Ing. (FH) B. Görke M.Sc. (GeothermieZentrum Bochum)
cand.-Ing. Matthias Hoffmann (HS Bochum)
Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Katja Winkler (HS Bochum)


Wirtschaftsförderung metropoleruhr GmbH
Wirtschaftsförderung Stadt Bochum

Compared to limited fossil energy carrier oil, coal and gas presents the warmth flow from the earth’s interior an unlimited energy source. The primal advantage of geothermal energy compared to other regenerative energy sources like solar- and wind-energy, is its base load performance: Geothermal energy is independently from daytime a season available. It can additionally to heating and cooling be used for electricity production.

Geothermal energy as an energy carrier presents for North-Rhine-Westphalia, especially the Ruhr-Area as the former European location for energy- and mining technologies, prospects of economic growth and employment. Background to this study was the comparably small knowledge of the structure of the value chain for geothermal energy in a young economic branch and the with this connected companies.
For structuring of the value chain for geothermal energy all technologies, products and services were ascertained, described and course-logically with each other connected and in form of graphics made demonstrative. The range of performance of geothermal energy systems involve a wide spectrum and reach from the 5 kW-heat-pump-plant for the warmth supply of a detached house to geothermal power plants with thermal and/or electric power in the MW-area. Because of this variety of technical systems for geothermal energy usage it is practical to divert one value chain for geothermal energy into the different categories “shallow geothermal energy” and “deep level geothermal energy”.

“Shallow geothermal energy” describes the thermal use of the underground warmth up to depth of 400 m. Conditional through the geological frame conditions the shallow geothermal energy in Germany is solely used for heat recovery in combination with heat pumps. In Germany the low level temperature standard is to low for electricity production. Next to heat production shallow geothermal energy is, during the summer months, used for cooling.

In deeper depth (>400m) it is spoken of deep level geothermal energy. Here are, through deep drillings, hydro thermal or petro thermal reservoirs exploit and made usable. Compared to shallow geothermal energy deep level geothermal energy can directly be used for heating of agricultural greenhouses and balneological (swimming pools) purposes as well as electricity production. In a particular case deep level geothermal energy in the Ruhr- Area can be used from mine water of stone coal mining.
For the analysis of the value chain for geothermal energy 500 companies from the Metropole Ruhr were questioned. Every fifth company contributed information to the study.

On basis of this information the geothermal market can be divided into 12 sectors. Those cover all attainments which come up during the construction and planning of shallow and deep level geothermal plants. In detail following sectors can be differentiated:

  • planning of geothermal energy systems
  • heating- and cooling technologies
  • production of heat pumps
  • production of technical building equipment (TGA)
  • drilling companies
  • drilling services
  • production of drilling tools and drilling accessories
  • production of materials for drill hole dismantling
  • wholesale / sales
  • energy supply /-technologies
  • planning long-distance heating and  technologies
  • power plant planning /-technologies

Within the Metropole Ruhr around 230 companies were found, which act in on or more of the just named sectors. Those numbers include, besides the 100 companies which provided information for this study, those which out of different reasons did not answer the questionnaire, but from which on account of researched information can reasonably be expected that they are involved in the value chain for geothermal energy. The ascertained companies offer predominantly products or services for shallow geothermal energy. Anyhow have some companies of deep level geothermal energy their place of business in the area of the Metropole Ruhr. To mention are deep drilling companies, project developer, power plant builder, supply companies and several service companies for exploration and drilling technology.

In contrast to the comparatively “mature” markets for solar- and wind energy is geothermal energy a young economic branch. For two out of three companies, which took part in the study, the entry into the geothermal energy market took place in the last 5 years. Thereby mainly companies from other branches, especially engineering services, civil engineering, drill- and process engineering and heating- and cooling technologies, are for a longer time established and included only recently geothermal energy into their business segments.

The market situation of geothermal energy in Germany assigns itself by dynamic growth. The analysis shows that the Metropole Ruhr and NRW are key-locations for the geothermal branch. Leading companies have their place of business in the surveyed area and profit notably from this development.

Thus 60% of the questioned companies judge the present state of business in the geothermal energy sector as positive. The companies judge the further prospects of geothermal energy even better. About 80% of the companies expect the business segment geothermal energy to develop positively in 2009/2010.

In shallow geothermal energy two regional companies (Vaillant, Waterkotte) cover 25% of the complete German market volume. The European heat pump market increased lately by 8% (2006 to 2007); compared to that, regional producer with an increase of 40% are clearly above average. For 2008 they expect a further growth spurt of 30% compared to 2007.

In mechanical engineering 75% of German drill rigs for shallow geothermal energy come from the Metropole Ruhr. On numerous international markets are drill rig companies from North-Rhine-Westphalia market leading. According to that is the ancillary industry structured (e.g. heat pump technology).

NRW did so far not play a role in deep level geothermal energy. However do the companies get considerable account. Some of the most important market participants in planning, exploration, construction, power plant building, component supply and operation for deep level geothermal energy plants are situated and have their production location in NRW (e.g. Evonik, Hochtief, Daldrup, DMT, Balcke-Dürr, Wirth, ENRO, E.ON). For the industrial location NRW the employment market and technology-political prospects have higher relevance than a cheap geothermal regime. Next to the already named big businesses exists a high number of small and medium-sized businesses with recess character.

In further development more market opportunities for geothermal energy will develop in the area of stone coal industry. This reaches from the use of the mining infrastructure (including mine water) to new employment markets for former in coal mining employed companies and suppliers. The opening of this market requires a politico-economic overall-concept for the region. Generally do the results allow the conclusion that the geothermal market is on a growth path which in view of the companies from the Metropole Ruhr will continue for an intermediate-term.      

The branch produces in the area around 4.000 to 5.000 jobs. Unconsidered are substitution-workplaces in the installation business (e.g. geothermal energy for oil). Nearly two-thirds of the companies expect that they either this year and/or the both next years employ new staff in the field of geothermal energy.

Essential condition for the creation of additional job is next to the employment willingness of the companies the availability of qualified aspirants. Nearly half the companies state that at the moment the qualified staff-finding in the area of geothermal energy is difficult.

Especially difficult seems to be the situation in the drilling branch, which, according to the companies, has the highest manpower requirements. From the 15 drilling companies, which anticipated in this study, 12 companies claim problems in the recruitment of new staff. A very high discrepancy seems to be in the segment of skilled worker (e.g. driller, well-digger).

In spite of the very positive market assessment do the companies see barriers, which hinder their activities in geothermal energy work. As principal topics they named unsatisfied communication and a low knowledge about geothermal energy by builders and planners, comparable high costs for the construction of geothermal plants as well as regionally different approval procedures. The questioned companies named the wish for a more intensive public relations work for the energy carrier geothermal warmth, for more research and development to lower the costs for planning, building and running of geothermal plants and for a unification of the legal requirements for the approval of geothermal plants.       

Zusätzliche Information

Value chain shallow geothermal energy
Value chain deep geothermal energy (I)
Value chain deep geothermal energy (II)