Interview with János Szanyi

Coordinator of the EFG Panel of Experts on Geothermal Energy

EFG’s Panels of Experts (PE) have been set up to provide high-quality advice and information to the European institutions, to international NGO’s and to other global professional associations. EFG has currently 10 Panels of Experts active in the fields of CCS, Education, Geological Heritage, Geotechnics, Geothermal Energy, Hydrogeology, Natural Hazards, Minerals, Oil & Gas and Soil Protection. The Panels involve more than 200 voluntary experts from over 20 different countries and all aim at emphasising the importance of geology to society, the benefits of incorporating geological advice and to promote the importance of the geoscientific profession.

To raise awareness about the existence of these Panels of Experts, EFG is presenting its coordinators in a new interview series. In July 2018, we have talked to János Szanyi, the coordinator of the Panel on Geothermal Energy.

János Szanyi

Coordinator of the EFG Panel of Experts on Geothermal Energy since 2012

“I am an assistant professor at the University of Szeged. I graduated in Mathematical and Computer Science, and Geology at József Attila University (Szeged, Hungary), Faculty of Natural Sciences. I have a PhD in Environmental Sciences. Finally, I am specialized in Hydrogeology as a Hydrogeologist-engineer at the Miskolc University, Hungary. After the university years, I worked for the Hungarian Geological Survey for 12 years, first as a field geologist later as a head of the Regional Office in Szeged. At the university, and even in the Hungarian Geological Survey years I took part in many hydrogeological and geothermal activities, like planning and executing field work and organising the geothermal database. I coordinated several international geothermal projects, which dealt with transboundary aquifers. I also took part as a modeller expert for several geothermal energy utilisation and groundwater contaminant cases. At the university, I am teaching Hydrogeology, Modelling Groundwater and Heat Flow, and Geothermics. I am the coordinator of the PE on Geothermal Energy at EFG.”

About your field of expertise:

How would you define the role of geothermal energy in Europe’s energy mix today?

The importance of the heating and cooling sector is bigger than that of the electricity generation sector. It derives from the geological background so this situation reflects reality. The problem is the too small portion of geothermal sectors from the energy mix, which are deeply under the potential except for few countries.

How do you evaluate future perspectives for the geothermal energy sector?

The geothermal energy is one of the greenest resources with a very low CO2 emission level. Due to the Research & Development investments, the exploration/exploitation risks and drilling costs will be reduced in the deep geothermal sector. Furthermore, the new technologies in the oil and gas sector are improving the geothermal sector as well.

How do you see the future role of geoscientists in your field of expertise, for example, 20 years ahead from now?

The geothermal sector has a timeframe of no longer than 5 to 8 years to prove its competitiveness against solar and wind energy. So, the technical breakthrough will have to take place in the next 10 years, otherwise geothermal will be far behind the other renewables.

About your Panel of Experts:

Which role can the EFG Panel of Experts on Geothermal Energy play in the current EU policy context?

I am convinced that EFG has the potential to become one of the main actors in harmonising the rules and legislation in this field.

How would you define the added value of collaborating with experts from different European countries?

There are different solutions to similar problems so if we share this knowledge, the development of the geothermal sector will be more efficient.

What is your Panel of Experts currently working on? What are your further plans for 2018?

Our focus in the close future is the collaboration with UNECE and IGA on a frame of the specifications for the application of the United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources 2009 (UNFC-2009) to Geothermal Energy Resources both scientifically and technically.

Is there anything EFG could do to support your Panel of Experts?

To help to extend the panel members with active members.

Your Panel involves less women than men and in general women are underrepresented in the STEM sector. What needs to be done to improve the gender balance in earth sciences?

There are more male geologists than female, but times change: at the moment we have more female geology students at our university than male. Up to when they will start their carrier we ought to make positive discrimination. I mean to ask the member societies to delegate ladies to the expert panels.

About yourself:

Since when do you lead your Panel of Experts?


What inspired you to become a geologist? Why did you choose the field of geothermal energy?

The books that I read about the natural processes and my geography teacher in high school were the greatest influences on my choice. Dealing with geothermal energy was a later choice. I was very lucky because I worked together with an experienced geothermal expert at the Geological Survey and he taught me a lot.

What do you currently do in your job?

I am an assistant professor at the University of Szeged. In addition to education, I am dealing with research as well. We have very good cooperation with the industrial sector and other research institutions. We are developing some brand new technologies to increase the efficiency of geothermal energy production – some of our research is really cutting edge, and it’s great to see turn ideas into reality.

More information about the EFG Panels of Experts