Edwin van Leeuwen

veski innovation fellow

Norilsk Nickel

Professor Edwin van Leeuwen was awarded a veski innovation fellowship in April 2010.

Professor van Leeuwen relocated back to Melbourne; to a position within the Melbourne Energy Institute, The University of Melbourne. Edwin has been a global research and technology manager with one of the largest mining companies in the world, BHP Billiton for 24 years.

He is currently the Managing Director, Director Business Development and New Projects at Norilsk Nickel.

Research project: Geothermal base-load power options for Victoria

The question of how we meet future growth in power demand while reducing CO2 emissions is one the key challenges of our time.

The scale of moving towards clean coal power is formidable. In Australia, resistance to nuclear power makes it politically unpalatable at present. Solar and wind are intermittent and high cost. Biomass competes with other land use priorities. Hydro and tidal have only limited application while conventional geothermal is inapplicable.

In this context energy from enhanced (or engineered) geothermal systems (EGS) provides an alluring option. With no significant waste stream, minimal environmental footprint and widespread applicability, EGS has a theoretical capacity to meet future energy growth expectations.

However, realising geothermal energy production in Australia requires overcoming difficult challenges: from targeting heat reservoirs at great depths and engineering them for optimum long-term heat exchange to managing the risks of commercialisation.

The veski innovation fellowship will address all aspects critical to realising Victoria’s EGS potential. It will do so by assembling and adapting pertinent technologies from related industry experience and by consolidating the skill base within the science, engineering and financial community in order to deliver a demonstrator EGS project in Victoria.

We are trying to ‘de-risk’ geothermal energy to the point where companies that are in the energy business would consider investing capital to drill into prospective geological areas

Dr Edwin van Leeuwen