The subsurface is being used with increasing frequency for more and more purposes, such as water abstraction and storage of freshwater and energy. To protect the soil and groundwater we need robust and reliable abstraction wells. Over the past few decades KWR, together with the soil and water sector, has built up a significant body of knowledge in the field. This is the rationale behind KWR’s organisation of a symposium about the knowledge developed, new possibilities and innovative solutions. A symposium that also offered a worthy farewell for ‘well doyen’ Kees van Beek.
Growing importance of wells
Wells constitute our most important access to the subsurface. The realisation of robust, reliable and (cost-)efficient wells has become more important. The (deeper) subsurface is after all being used with greater intensity, at the same time we want to ensure the protection of groundwater quality and quantity. Over the past 20 years a great deal of knowledge and practical experience has been built up in the Netherlands in the areas well management and well technique. We have also learnt a lot about well clogging, which is the main operational problem in wells.
‘Well doyen’ Kees van Beek
Kees van Beek (KWR) played a significant part in all these developments. On 10 March 2017, this ‘well doyen’ bid farewell, following a career of more than 40 years in the ‘wellfield’. KWR organised a farewell symposium in his honour, which more than 50 people from the water and soil communities attended. Twelve presentations were made, providing an excellent overview of the many innovative developments in well technology during the past two decades.
In his keynote address Kees van Beek himself referred to the breakthrough which took place over 10 years ago, when it was found that the on-off switching of wells led to less mechanical well clogging. In the past few years, Kees has focused his attention on chemical iron clogging, and in the process discovered that there is a difference between homogenous and heterogeneous iron oxidation. These processes lead to different forms of iron precipitation and call for different responses. The follow-up research is still ongoing.
New techniques and new solutions
Other speakers completed the overview of advances and experiences accumulated over the past few years. Among the subjects they addressed were new techniques for well installation (Horizontal Directional Drilled Wells, Extended Diameter Gravel Well and the Multiple Partially Penetrating Well), iron precipitation in wells, and the application of Dutch expertise in Myanmar and Surinam. All this new knowledge contributes to new solutions for the supply of freshwater for drinking water production, horticulture and industry, through the use of the subsurface – e.g., Coastar, Dinteloord and the Horizon 2020 SUBSOL project.
Kees passes on the baton
At the conclusion of the symposium Jan Willem Kooiman paid tribute, in the name of the ‘well sector’ in general and of those in attendance in particular, to Kees van Beek’s commitment over the decades. Fortunately, Kees does not leave behind a sector devoid of expertise: within KWR Martin van der Schans takes over the baton. Working at KWR and TU Delft, Martin does research on the scientific challenges still facing well management, such as methods for making use of more of the subsurface, for realising wells that are more reliable, economical and sustainable, and for keeping wells biologically and chemically safe. According to Martin collaboration is the key to progress in the area.