PhD groundwater wells for heat storage: Methods for drilling and completion Apply Now

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

Delft, Netherlands 🇳🇱

Job description


The EU aims to have a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) economy by 2050. At present, heating and cooling represent around 50% of the final energy use in Europe and are mainly supplied by fossil fuel derived energy. Because sustainable heat is mainly available in summer and demand is in winter, large scale seasonal heat storage is a key strategy to decarbonize heating in order to achieve EU ambitions. TU Delft leads a large European project that will showcase and develop full-scale application of heat storage (up to 90°C) in geothermal reservoirs using three different technologies: Aquifer, Borehole and Mine Thermal Energy Storage (ATES, BTES, MTES), at 6 different sites in Europe which together represent a relevant range of geological conditions across Europe. In this PhD project you will develop and test methods for drilling and completion of ATES wells with a focus on high temperature (>60-100°C) levels. You will contribute to a demonstration site, where technology will be investigated at field scale.

New drilling and completion methods to reduce costs and risks.

ATES systems use 2 or more wells for the injection and extraction of water to carry heat to and from reservoirs or aquifers. Drilling is typically undertaken using (reverse circulation) rotary drilling with diameters of between ~300mm and ~1000mm for ATES systems. Depths for ATES wells are typically down to 200m, sometimes deeper. While for low temperature (<25°C) ATES systems design criteria already have been developed, these are only in part transferable to high temperature (HT)-ATES wells due to e.g. the impact of higher temperatures on material suitability and on the reservoir and well flow dynamics. Therefore, in this research, you will develop key advances for such wells by lab and field experimentation using various casing materials (vacuum, Glass-fibre Re-enforced Epoxy (GRE), stainless steel), different well designs (regular and expanded diameter (>2m)). In the HT-ATES demonstration site at Delft, two of the hot wells are intended to be equipped with new GRE casing and 1 with a vacuum casing to test/verify heat radiation reduction in penetrating layers. Two of the warm wells will be made with an expanded diameter gravel well (EDGW) to allow for higher flow rates and longer lifetime. Monitoring of well performance will provide crucial insights on optimal well design and completion for low cost and robust HT-ATES wells for future HT-ATES projects.

Objectives and methods.

You will assess, develop and demonstrate various drilling and completion methods for installing ATES wells:

  • The EDGW is based on a new drilling technique that allows to significantly expand borehole diameters at depth and is one of the key well technologies you will develop further. Main research questions relate to: borehole stability preconditions during drilling and completion, cleaning of borehole wall after drilling and during maintenance, effect on particle mobilisation in relation to flow rate and temperature. You will use coupled temperature, hydraulic and mechanical (THM) models to asses these aspects, you will prepare drilling based on findings in simulations and monitor/control these during drilling of the EDGWs, furthermore you will evaluate performance of the EDGW’s once they are operational.
  • You will evaluate the benefits of different types of materials for casing of ATES wells: vacuum, GRE, stainless steel. Main research questions relate to: the easy and quality of installation, quality (stability, losses, longevity) and costs. You will make general evaluation/benchmark using LCA or similar methods. Temperature and pressure monitoring allows you to evaluate performance, together with simulations.
  • Evaluate the potential of casing while drilling together with drilling company.


We are looking for an excellent candidate with the following qualifications, knowledge and skills:

  • A master degree in applied earth science, civil engineering, mechanical engineering or another degree with a substantial, fluid flow, mechanics/dynamics and/or geophysics content.
  • Knowledge of, and experience with, computational modelling and control is essential.
  • A team player who thrives working with people in different organisations with different skillsets.
  • A curiosity inspired and creative researcher who is able to plan, execute, deliver and communicate research.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English.
  • Dutch companies are involved in the testing and piloting, it is an advantage if you could speak Dutch. 

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

You will be hosted at the Water Resources and Geo-Engineering Sections in TU Delft. The supervision committee will be made up of Associate Professor Phil Vardon (promotor), Assistant Professor Martin Bloemendal (Co-promotor) and dr. Niels Hartog (Co-promotor) from KWR Water Research Institute (the inventor of the EDGW). You will have the opportunity to work in close collaboration with researchers and companies across Europe. You will need to collaborate in detail with industry partners installing the wells in Delft.

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Civil Engineering & Geosciences

The Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology, and delta technology. Our research feeds into our educational programmes and covers societal challenges such as climate change, energy transition, resource depletion, urbanisation and the availability of clean water, conducted  in close cooperation with a wide range of research institutions. CEG is convinced that Open Science helps to achieve our goals and supports its scientists in integrating Open Science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in the following seven departments: Materials Mechanics Management & Design, Engineering Structures, Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Transport & Planning, Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Martin Bloemendal, [email protected] or Phil Vardon, [email protected].

Application procedure

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 30 September 2022 via the application button and upload your motivation and CV.

  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated.





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