Edwin van Leeuwen


veski innovation fellow

Professor Edwin van Leeuwen is relocating back to Melbourne; to a position within the Melbourne Energy Institute, The University of Melbourne, after spending the last three years based mainly in Singapore where he was managing BHP Billiton's global Technology operations in Russia, China and India. Professor van Leeuwen has been a global research and technology manager with one of the largest mining companies in the world, BHP Billiton for the past 24 years.

Edwin was awarded a veski innovation fellowship in April 2010.

Research project title:
Geothermal base-load power options for Victoria

Research project description:
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.

Key facts:

  • Edwin moved on from his University of Melbourne professorial position in June 2010 to become managing director of major mining company Norilsk Nickel Australia
  • He led the team that developed the world’s first airborne gravity gradiometer system
  • He is also Director Geothermal Energy Systems Victoria and Professor, School of Earth Sciences.
  • Edwin was interested in sciences from an early age and before his tertiary education spent a year at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne

“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."

Edwin van Leeuwen

Melbourne Energy Institute