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Problems with geothermal probes in evaporite deposits in Saxony-Anhalt

Near-surface geothermal energy as a key technology for the sustainable provision of heating and cooling is increasingly coming into focus as renewable energy and alternative to fossil fuels. In Saxony-Anhalt with an estimated 6,000 geothermal systems operational, several hundreds are being installed annually, incresasingly also in public and commercial buildings.

Areas, where water-soluble rocks carry the risk of karstification and sinkhole occurrence, are clustered in places of the Zechstein outcrop on the Harz Mountain rim, on the contours of the Halle Permo-Carboniferous complex and the Flechtinger Höhenzug. Near-surface Upper Buntsandstein, Middle Muschelkalk and Gipskeuper karstable rocks occur in the Weferlingen-Schönebecker Scholle, in the Hakel, Huy, Fallstein, the Oschersleben-Egelner salt axis, and in the Subherzyn.

Karst areas often contain particularly concrete-aggressive waters, so that special measures must be taken to protect geothermal probes. In addition, in the often cavernous or fissured rock, mud losses are to be expected, or the proper backfilling of the borehole is problematic. Further aspects can be the reduced thermal conductivity.

There is a risk of volume increase due to the transformation of anhydrite into gypsum after contact with water, which can lead to uplift of the terrain above evaporite lithologies. Building ground hazards can occur in the area of salt mining and near-surface salt deposits.

Permitting practice shows that for site-specific projects in the karst areas of Saxony-Anhalt sensu lato, heat recovery from the ground via geothermal collectors is recommended in order to avoid scoring, dissolution and hydration of the rock at risk of subrosion.


Christoph Gauert1, Jörg Steinborn2
1Landesamt für Geologie und Bergwesen Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany;University of the Free State, South Africa; 2Landesamt für Geologie und Bergwesen Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
GeoBerlin 2023