In Hungary’s third largest city, Szeged, hot water from deep underground is being channelled to produce energy and heat for thousands of households. Can this alternative replace Russian gas?
“Geothermal energy is local, accessible and renewable so why not use it.” geologist Tamás Medgyes told AFP. According to experts, Europe’s biggest urban heating system overhaul can serve as a model for other cities in the EU that are trying to disconnect themselves from Russian gas, which has become increasingly uncertain due to the war in Ukraine. Szeged, with a population of 160,000, is one of the 12 Hungarian cities that already partially use geothermal energy. – writes Index.
Szeged will heat 27,000 apartments
Luckily for residents of Szeged, this energy provides heat for 27,000 apartments and 400 non-residential consumers. For heating, 27 thermal springs and 16 thermal power stations will push water heated with geothermal energy through the 250-kilometer pipeline system.
Originally, the Szeged district heating system was designed for gas-based heating. It is no coincidence that Russia provides 65 percent of Hungary’s crude oil needs and 80 percent of its natural gas needs. Only recently have they started drilling and found the thermal springs underneath the city. The total value of the project is about 50,000,000 EUR, however, part of it is covered by EU funds. Not only Szeged can achieve this, but also French, German, Italian or Slovakian cities can use their thermal water sources. According to experts, roughly 25 percent of the EU’s population lives in an area where the heating of apartments could be solved with geothermal energy.
Reduce emissions by 60 percent
Balázs Kóbor, the director of the district heating company Szetáv in Szeged, started working long before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine on how cities could utilise the heat of thermal waters. Finally, in 2015, together with Medgyes, the municipality commissioned him to prepare the utilisation of renewable energies in the city’s heating system. “Every year, we burned around 30,000,000 cubic meters of natural gas to heat the city, releasing 55,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air.” – he says. Therefore, one can say the city itself causes the biggest pollution. However, if the city were to switch from natural gas-based heating to geothermal, it would reduce emissions by 60 percent.