BSC works on geothermal energy innovation in the cross-border region between Spain and France

15 September 2020

In response to the growing demand for sustainable energy solutions, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) coordinates the interregional project PIXIL (Pyrenees Imaging eXperience: an InternationaL network), which seeks to promote innovation and competitiveness of geothermal energy in the cross-border area between Spain and France.

Geothermal energy is a natural source of energy that has minimal environmental impact and is free of CO2 emissions. This energy resource uses a constant flow of thermal energy that goes from the subsoil to the surface to, in small scale, reduce costs associated with heating/air conditioning homes or installations of all kinds; or, in larger projects, to produce electricity. Geothermal works 24 hours a day and therefore provides excellent support for other renewable energy sources that present greater variability, such as photovoltaic or wind. Furthermore, it is an energy of purely local origin, both due to its use close to the place where it was obtained and due to its non-dependence on foreign technologies or materials.

PIXIL intends to create a cross-border R&D network for the development of prospecting geophysical technology or imaging of the subsoil to improve the sectoral competitiveness of the area, value local resources, and strengthen professional skills at a transnational level, with significant benefits for the population of the region. Scientific and technological efforts are focused on improving the characterization of the subsoil through geophysical techniques. In the past, imaging has had a strong impact in the fields of mining and hydrocarbons. In the same way, this project aims to bring this technology to geothermal energy. The local population can benefit through the exploitation of geothermal energy, from a favorable return on investment in the medium or long term and clean and renewable energy.

PIXIL participates and collaborates with professionals belonging to major research and technological development centers in Spain and France. On the Spanish side, the Basque Center for Applied Mathematics (BCAM), the University of Barcelona (UB). The French participants were RealTimeSeismic (RTS), the Institut national de recherche en sciences et technologies du numérique (Inria), and Pole AVENIA. In addition to these institutions, in PIXIL has a large group of collaborators who represent the business side of the project , whose goal is to evaluate the results obtained, guide new developments and, in the future, apply technological advances as part of their portfolio of services and thus improve the competitiveness of the sector.

Josep de la Puente, head of the Geoscience Applications group of the Department of Computer Applications in Science and Engineering (CASE) and coordinator of this project, said that, "a good characterization of the subsoil can be key to having more reliable and economical geothermal projects. From the project, we believe firmly that through simulation and analysis of geophysical data we can give a boost to the local geothermal industry. At PIXIL, we focus on the region, but we have international ambition".


PIXIL is a cross-border and multidisciplinary scientific-technological collaboration effort intending to develop the most advanced tools to analyze the earth's subsoil, with a special interest in the growth of geothermal energy in the region. PIXIL has a strong research profile, where scientific collaboration between the centers prevails and whose results are advances in the three disciplines that together form modern geophysical imaging: Geophysics, Applied Mathematics, and Computing.

The project has been co-financed 65% by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Interreg VA Spain-France-Andorra Program (POCTEFA 2014-2020). The objective of POCTEFA is to reinforce the economic and social integration of the Spain-France-Andorra border area. Its assistance focuses on the development of cross-border economic, social, and environmental activities through joint strategies in favor of sustainable territorial development.