EGU24-12486, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Same same but different: the scientific challenges when re-using the subsurface for sustainable energy developments

Suzanne Hangx
Suzanne Hangx
  • Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht, Netherlands (

Though global energy needs continue to grow, fossil fuels, and their associated CO2 emissions, are increasingly being opposed as our main source of energy. Instead, to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions goals, we are currently transitioning to more sustainable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power and geothermal energy, coupled with storage of waste, such as CO2. However, these new technologies come with their own challenges, as they continue to rely on (re-)use of the subsurface landscape. The intermittency of solar and wind power will require storage of renewably generated electricity. Hydrogen fuel has been marked as a potential energy carrier, enabling us to store large quantities of energy for prolonged periods of time, such as required to supply large industries or communities during winter months. To store this hydrogen fuel, the subsurface offers the largest storage space available, such as in (offshore) depleted hydrocarbon fields, but reproduction of the stored fluid is crucial. Geothermal energy production will require the extraction of hot fluids from depth and will often be performed in populated areas, close to the consumers, meaning that phenomena such as surface subsidence and induced seismicity are highly undesirable. The safe storage of CO2 for thousands of years also entails fluid injection, but containment is of vital importance to keep the CO2 out of our atmosphere. So though we have a vast history of exploitation of the subsurface through the oil and gas industry, which we can and should build upon, these new sustainable energy developments also pose their own, new challenges. While fluid production changes the physical equilibrium of the system, these new uses will also impact the chemical equilibrium through the injection of new fluids. Furthermore, containment and safety play an even bigger role than before to ensure the longevity of these new subsurface operations. In this contribution, I will outline what the challenges are that we are facing and how geoscientists can contribute to solving these challenges, across all areas from rock physics, geochemistry and hydrology, to sedimentology, structural geology and policy.

How to cite: Hangx, S.: Same same but different: the scientific challenges when re-using the subsurface for sustainable energy developments, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-12486,, 2024.