Advisory group for Economic Affairs

TNO’s Advisory group for Economic Affairs (TNO AGE) provides scientific insight and advice on using the deep subsurface responsibly and efficiently. Target groups are policymakers, regulatory bodies, and stakeholders, as well as the general public. Discover the range of our activities.

Research and advice

TNO AGE advises the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy on the implementation of the Mining Law and on energy transition issues. To this end, we conduct research on the opportunities that the deep subsurface has to offer in the transition to sustainable energy. Examples are using geothermal energy and storing gases such as natural gas, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide (CO2).

In addition to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, we work for local and regional authorities, and other stakeholders in the public domain. These include Dutch State Supervision of Mines (SSM) and Energiebeheer Nederland (Netherlands Energy Management) (EBN). We collect information from industry about their current and planned activities, and data from research studies, for example on seismic activity and drilling. We do not work for industry.

Many of our experts have a scientific background in geology, petroleum geology, physics, or geophysics. We frequently collaborate with various TNO departments with a broad range of knowledge about the environment, climate, construction, administration, communication, data, and information.

A glimpse behind the scenes at the Advisory Group for Economic Affairs

Knowledge development and information provision

We publish public reports, up-to-date information, and data on NLOG. This is a website that TNO Geological Survey of the Netherlands manages at the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. In this way, we’re contributing to developing the knowledge that is needed to encourage the use of the subsurface for current and future energy provision in the Netherlands. We also clarify the information for the general public during regional information meetings.

TNO employees look at oil and gas computer model.

Oil and gas extraction, storage, and transition

We carry out a number of ‘set’ tasks for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy in relation to oil and gas exploration and production. We collect data on Dutch onshore and offshore fields, and check the quality of that information. Furthermore, we're monitoring of new activities in the oil and gas industry.

Exploration and production

The Dutch subsurface contains more than 470 gas fields, some 250 of which are in production. Gas companies drill for gas for the Dutch and foreign markets. We calculate how big the Dutch gas fields are and whether they’re suitable for exploration. We make annual forecasts for Dutch gas production, including the ‘exploration potential’, and we update the national gas reserve. For this purpose, we collect and publish the forecasts of the oil and gas reserves of all the operators that are active in the Netherlands in existing fields. We make forecasts for the fields that have not yet been discovered, based on the data on expected volumes provided by operators. Read more about oil and gas extraction on the NLOG website.

Underground energy storage

The deep subsurface will play a major role if the Netherlands wants to use sustainable energy on a large scale. By storing wind and solar energy in energy carriers such as hydrogen and compressed air, we can ensure there is enough energy available even on cloudy, calm days. The subsurface offers space in empty gas fields, salt caverns, and aquifers (porous strata) to store other substances, such as renewable fuel and heat, in sufficiently large amounts. We already store large amounts of gas for heating during the winter. Read more about underground energy storage on the NLOG website.

Carbon storage

A large number of empty offshore gas fields are technically suitable for carbon storage. This will enable us to make a significant contribution to achieving the climate goals. Read more about carbon storage on the NLOG website.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is a sustainable energy source with great security of supply, as it is always available. In order to exploit geothermal energy safely, we have to coordinate its use with other subsurface activities, such as extracting gas and salt, and storing energy. We advise the national government on this subject, but also regional and local governments.

Sustainable heat from the deep subsurface

Strata situated between 1.5 and 4 kilometres below the earth’s surface contain water at temperatures of between 45 and 120 degrees Celsius. This warm water can serve as an energy source that is not dependent on seasons or the weather. We already use geothermal energy to heat glasshouses and homes, but over time it could also be used for industrial processes and to generate electricity.

With our detailed knowledge of the deep subsurface, we provide insight into the local potential for geothermal energy. In this context, we also look at locations outside the area of gas exploration and extraction. We participate in programmes to boost knowledge about the potential for new geothermal locations.

Advice on permits

In increasing numbers of municipalities in the Netherlands, there are parties working to start up geothermal energy projects: around a third of the more than 350 municipalities have dealt with applications for permits. We advise local and regional governments and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy on granting permits. Read more about geothermal energy on the NLOG website.

TNO AGE does research on geothermal energy, which involves drawing heat from the subsurface at a depth of around 3 km. TNO AGE does not work on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) or seasonal thermal energy storage (STES)

Effects of mining

Our researchers have sound knowledge of strata and structures in the subsurface and deep subsurface of the Netherlands. We specialise in making models that predict how the subsurface will ‘behave’ and the risk of induced seismicity and soil subsidence as a consequence of mining activities.

Likelihood of earthquakes

For the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, we model the impact above ground of a potential earthquake resulting from gas extraction. The Ministry uses these data and other information to make decisions on granting permits. We also contribute to developing knowledge and protocols for clarifying and managing seismic risks of geothermal energy. Read more about induced seismicity on the NLOG website.

Soil subsidence

Gas extraction also causes some soil subsidence. This is because deep rock strata slowly settle by up to several tens of centimetres over a large area. According to our calculations, soil subsidence resulting from mining activities in the deep subsurface does not cause any damage above ground. Read more about soil subsidence due to gas extraction on the NLOG website.

In the Netherlands, salt is mainly extracted at depths of between 350 and 500 metres. This carries risks of subsidence. We closely monitor salt extraction and advise the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy on granting permits for salt exploration and extraction, and on the safe sealing of caverns. Read more about salt extraction on the NLOG website.

Our Geomodelling and Applied Geosciences expertise groups do research on the causes of soil subsidence.

TNO employee uses a model to show what the subsurface looks like.

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