BRGM's geothermal platform is used to test shallow geothermal exchangers (of the type used to provide heating or cooling in private houses or small buildings) in real-life conditions.
3 September 2014

BRGM's geothermal platform

This experimental platform for geothermal heat pumps is designed to study underground heat exchangers.

Situated on BRGM's site in Orléans, the platform has been co-financed by the Centre region and ERDF since its construction (Orléans, France, 2010).

© BRGM 

BRGM's geothermal platform in Orleans compares the efficiency of various techniques to exchange heat, in summer and winter, between buildings and the subsoil. The goal of the platform is to describe the mechanism of conditions, such as wind, rain, sun, and the Earth's heat. Understanding the resource will help us to manage and use it better. The first systems installed and studied were horizontal collectors. This simple and economical technique is not the most efficient, but it gives us keys to understand other collectors. We can also choose to stabilise the thermal  resource by using vertical geothermal probes. The same is done with aquifer solutions. Today, we are also finding intermediate solutions, such as the systems known as compact exchangers. Their efficiency has not yet been fully studied, but their simple installation with a digger makes this system the ideal companion for future green houses and buildings. By circulating water in the exchangers at a fixed temperature and outflow, we can simulate energy needs in terms of heat and cold for any building. We can reproduce the behaviour of homes, of all existing heat pumps, and those which are still concepts. This installation shows nearly 10,000 temperature measurements every 2 minutes with optical fibre technology. Two engineers, 2 PhD students and one control systems technician were hired to run the platform.

With Europe, things are on the move in the Centre region: BRGM's geothermal platform

BRGM's geothermal platform welcomed students from the Voltaire d'Orléans high school as part of a 2013 competition baptised "Avec l'Europe, ça tourne en région Centre !" (With Europe, things are on the move in the Centre region). 

Organised by the Prefecture of the Centre region, the competition aims to raise awareness among young people about the different projects subsidised by Europe in the Centre region. 

© Lycée Voltaire d’Orléans 

There's nothing complicated about it! 

Boy, it's cold in here! No matter how much I turn the heat up, it's still cold. 

- Hey, Jacky, so you're cold? 

- Where are you guys? 

At the BRGM's geothermal platform in Orleans.  

Let's go see Mickaël to find out more about it. 

Ok. Hello, Mickaël. 

Can you explain how the geothermal platform works? 

The geothermal platform is an experimental test centre for home geothermal exchangers. 

What exactly do you do? 

Our objective is to optimise the environmental and energy efficiency of these exchangers by testing them in real operating conditions. 

That's correct. We could add that geothermal science studies thermal phenomena and how to exploit the Earth's heat to produce electricity or heat. The deeper you dig in the Earth, the hotter it gets. By circulating water in pipes in the subsoil, you can extract the Earth's calories and heat your house. 

How does it work? 

Let's go see for ourselves. This is the thermodynamic apparatus. It sets the temperature and outflow for each geothermal collector circuit.  

What does a collector look like? 

There are different types. On this platform, we test three. Behind us, a horizontal exchanger is buried 1 m deep in the grass. This is a vertical probe, which is put 50 m deep in a borehole. 

What's this here? 

These are geothermal baskets. They are spiral-shaped exchangers buried 1 to 10 m underground. 

There you are! I was lost. 

It's huge here. How did you finance all this? 

The project is supported by the ERDF and Centre Region of France. The ERDF finances 40% of the platform. 

The European Regional Development Fund was created in 1994 to provide venture capital for small and medium-sized companies. The major shareholder is the European Investment Bank. 

Thank you, Mickaël, for these explanations. 

- No problem. Goodbye. 

- Goodbye. 

- Well, Jacky, what do you think? 

- Good job, girls. 

Today we know very little about the heat stored in the Earth and how to use it. But European funding allows us to carry out studies. So it's super important. Girls, what's going on? 

See, Jacky! 

Thanks to European funding, we're never tired! 

Good job, girls. 

Today, we know little very little about... The European Regional Development Fund was created in 1980... 1994... 

The BRGM platform is an experimental test centre for... geothermal... I forgot my lines! 

What exactly do you do? 

Our objective is to... I forgot... 

So, how do you make a geothermal exchanger? What are exchangers for? 

No, "what do they look like"? 

How did you finance all this? 

The project is supported... 

Girls, jump every now and then. 

Very good. 

See, Jacky? 

Thanks to European funding, we're never tired. 

See, Jacky!  

Thanks to European funding... Oh, no!