03 May 2021

Modelling geothermal systems with FEFLOW

GEOTEST AG, one of the largest providers of environmental and geoscience services in Switzerland, shares their experience using the groundwater modelling software

Developed continuously over the last 40 years, the finite-element groundwater simulator FEFLOW covers key processes that are relevant for the optimisation of near-surface and deep geothermal installations. In addition to the software functionality covering subsurface flow, reactive mass transport and heat transport, FEFLOW offers modules to model special conditions, such as piFreeze for soil freezing/thawing, piChem for chemical equilibrium systems, and piHMC for hydromechanical coupling.

GEOTEST AG is one of the largest providers of environmental and geoscience services in Switzerland. The company uses FEFLOW to address groundwater and geothermal energy challenges. GEOTEST provides sound answers to hydrogeological and geothermal questions and develops the necessary foundations for groundwater use in domestic and industrial settings as well as for thermal purposes. 

In this interview, Dr. Vincent Badoux, Head of Department, Hydrogeology & Geothermics of GEOTEST AG and Board Member of the Swiss Geothermal Association, shares his experience on modelling groundwater and geothermal energy with FEFLOW. 

Q: Mr. Badoux, you are a long-standing FEFLOW user and DHI customer. Thanks for taking time to answer our questions today.
A: Gladly. DHI is an important partner for us and it is my pleasure to do this short interview.

Q: How long has GEOTEST used FEFLOW and why does the software lend itself so well to your operations?
A: GEOTEST has used the FEFLOW software since 2007. Due to its flexibility, versatility, reliability and its compatibility, e.g., with GIS files and other interfaces, the software has proven itself again and again in our everyday work.

Q: Which geothermal questions do you answer with FEFLOW?
A: We use FEFLOW to address a number of hydrogeological, geotechnical and geothermal questions. In geothermal energy applications, we use FEFLOW most for low-temperature projects, such as thermal groundwater installations or in combination with geothermal heat exchangers and energy piles. All these modelled together with very challenging subsurface conditions. Currently, we are planning a heating and cooling unit for a new warehouse of one of Switzerland's largest online shops. We are also modelling a geothermal system for heating network of the city of Davos. In another project, we used FEFLOW to understand the feasibility of a cooling system for an ice rink in the city of Bern. We also use FEFLOW to simulate deep geothermal projects – typically in cases where other solutions can no longer support our needs. In a recent project, we helped explore heat generating opportunities in an existing deep borehole in the Geneva area.

Q: Which FEFLOW features are the most useful for your work and why?
A: Undoubtedly, the ‘Reverse Flow Field’ option that assists in determining well capture zones. In addition, the ability to develop your own tools with the IFM-Python interface is a great advantage. DHI’s plug-ins are also very useful. Without these features, we would not always be able to answer our customers' specific questions.

Q: What makes FEFLOW special for you?
A: It is important for us that universities use FEFLOW because their graduates are newcomers to the workforce, who have initial exposure to the simulator. Equally valuable, however, are THE ACADEMY by DHI’s training opportunities because continuous training of our existing employees is one of our top priorities. FEFLOW is a professional standard in the industry and it provides us and our customers a certain degree of security. 

Q: What practical tips would you like to give other FEFLOW users?
A: We would recommend THE ACADEMY’s training opportunities to everyone and not to hesitate to contact and benefit from FEFLOW Support. In addition to DHI’s professional competence, we particularly appreciate their kindness and helpfulness. We also recommend all FEFLOW users to stay up-to-date with the software. In this way, we too benefit from the latest functionalities.  

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Know more about FEFLOW: https://www.mikepoweredbydhi.com/products/feflow