Geological Survey of the Netherlands

In order to be able to safely dig tunnels, construct large buildings, drill for oil and gas, or store CO2 underground, you need to know precisely what is to be found below the surface. The Geological Survey of the Netherlands (GDN: Geologische Dienst Nederland) has been studying this for over a century. The results of this research are stored in databases which are freely accessible to the public, a fact that GDN director Tirza van Daalen is proud of: ‘Nowhere in the world is there as much knowledge about the subsurface as in the Netherlands’.

Sharing knowledge

This knowledge is used by GDN to advise government and businesses about sustainable subsurface management and use. In our role as ‘home laboratory’ to the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, we advise on such matters as the earthquakes in the province of Groningen caused by gas extraction. The website (in Dutch and English) provides GDN data to the public free of cost. In addition, there is the Central Core Storage (Centraal Kernhuis) in Zeist, where drill samples taken at land or at sea are kept. Most of this material can also be accessed for research purposes free of cost.

Calculation models

In order to transform the huge amounts of data into useful information, we have developed calculation models. The Regional Geohydrological Information System (REGIS-II: Regionaal Geohydrologisch Informatiesysteem) is one of these. It shows the degree of water permeability of various subsurface layers. Municipal authorities use this model to evaluate groundwater extraction and infiltration permits. Our calculation models are also used to support businesses in planning issues related to resource management (building materials, (geothermal)energy and groundwater) and construction.

4D model

One of the greatest challenges for us today is converting our existing geological architecture models of the Netherlands into three or even four-dimensional sections. Almost 60% of the Netherlands is already covered in 3D. Much of the Netherlands is already in 3D, but a lot still needs to be done. The next step is adding time, which will allow you to see how the subsurface composition changes over time. This 3D and 4D information is crucial to making better predictions about the deep subsurface, where perhaps sustainable energy sources can be found.

‘What we do here at TNO is really unique, and as a result is used by governments and businesses’, says Tirza van Daalen. ‘Nowhere in the world is there as much knowledge about the subsurface as in the Netherlands.’ According to Van Daalen this is because GDN staff go about their work with great commitment and passion. To them, geology is a huge puzzle waiting to be solved. ‘Making the subsurface understandable is a fascinating job.’

If you would you like to benefit from GDN knowledge, please get in touch with us.

Would you like to view the various subsurface layers? Check out


Tirza van Daalen MSc