Geothermal project to tap underground lake

A Croatian energy company has discovered an underground lake with super-heated water that could supply tens of thousands of homes with clean geothermal electricity.

Power company Bukotermal conducted a two-year study before they found the geothermal water source at Lunjkovec – Kutnjak field (located in the Varazdin County), near the Hungary border. The lake is approximately 2.4km underground, with an average temperature of 142.03°C.

Varazdin County has confirmed the site meets all the requirements for the construction of a 16MW geothermal power plant.

The research has been conducted as part of a tender issued by the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency, and more than €2.5m (AUD$4.14m) has been invested in the project so far. It is looking into five areas in Croatia that have existing wells from retired oil and gas operations.

Drilling wells can be expensive and produce variable results, so utilising exisiting wells can lower the costs and possible risks.

Director for Central Europe at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Victoria Zinchuk, says the geological risks are significantly decreased due to the fact that there is existing seismic data for large areas in the continental part of the country.

Croatia has been trying to move away from imported fossil fuels recently, and has been exploring its geothermal resources as an alternative. The Pannonian region, known as a geologically active area, has areas of boiling water approximately 1.5km underground, and the water only gets hotter deeper down.

There are already areas in Croatia where hot water from underground is being used to heat towns, and the first geothermal power plant (Velika Ciglena) became operational in 2019. It has 10MW of installed capacity, which can power approximately 29,000 homes.

Bukotermal hopes to build a geothermal power plant on the newly discovered site within the next two years, and has six months to propose its plans for the site.

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