Zurich-Kloten Airport has set itself the goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2024. An ice age channel, which is located around 300 meters below the airport area, is expected to make a significant contribution to this. This, filled with water-bearing gravel, would serve as heat and cold storage to heat and cool a significant proportion of the airport buildings without emissions.
The project is already well beyond mere considerations, as some exploratory drilling has already been carried out. Additional exploratory drillings at three locations have confirmed the initial findings and provided promising information about the channel: It is up to one kilometer wide and around 30 kilometers long. But what matters is their nature. The channel carries gravel and water and thus meets the requirements of a potential heat and cold storage. The excess heat from summer can be stored in water-bearing gravel and used again for heating in winter. Conversely, the buildings can be cooled in summer.
The next step is to create a test well. Among other things, it should show what quantities of water can be pumped, what the flow speed and the chemical composition of the water are. This in turn depends on where the final wells for the extraction and return of groundwater will be placed and how many of them would be necessary to use the channel as an efficient storage facility. If too many wells were necessary, Flughafen Zürich AG would not be able to implement the project to its full potential. But the outlook is positive. The study results so far are promising. Regardless of the extent to which the channel can ultimately be used as a heat and cold storage facility for the airport, the current investigations are valuable and provide important new insights into the structure and groundwater of such deep channels and their development.
If successful, Zurich Airport will be able to use the channel as heat and cold storage from 2026. Flughafen Zürich AG estimates the investment costs for researching the channel and building the fountains to be between 4 and 8 million francs - depending on the number and location of the fountains. There are also development costs for lines and other technical measures. The project is funded by the Federal Office of Energy (BFE) as a pilot project for geoenergy with a maximum of 1 million francs.