The increasing demand for sustainable energy because of the energy transition puts pressure on underground space use, and climate change poses significant challenges for underground infrastructure. The underground infrastructure of the future requires thoughtful decisions and sustainable solutions.

Scientific knowledge as a basis

Deltares provides advice, support, and research for challenging issues in the field of underground infrastructure. The basis for this is the in-depth knowledge of our scientists and our global experience. We use our state-of-the-art research facilities and innovative technology, and we work closely with partners and stakeholders from the sector.

Knowledge of the behavior of cables, pipes, and tunnels in the underground is essential

Underground infrastructure is located underground. The interaction of infrastructure elements such as cables, pipes, and tunnels with the surrounding soil and groundwater is therefore important for the functioning of underground infrastructure. Changes in interaction due to, for example, above-ground soil excavation, or changes in groundwater level, can unintentionally affect the underground infrastructure. This can result in soil pollution or leaks that can disrupt above-ground and adjacent infrastructure.

Sometimes accidents happen during the construction or replacement of underground infrastructure. Often, accidents can be prevented by paying more attention to the surrounding infrastructure during design and planning. Attention to potential risks during implementation helps to make the infrastructure for tomorrow ready on time without problems. Underground infrastructure cannot be considered separately from soil and groundwater. The surrounding underground and aboveground infrastructure also form part of the whole.

Sufficient attention to the environment through the application of the necessary knowledge will enable us to optimally utilize the limited underground space for the future

Henk Kruse, Expert Underground Infrastructure

Deltares has captured the knowledge gained in the past in tools and methodologies and is currently working to increase knowledge about the construction and behavior of underground infrastructure in soil and groundwater. This is necessary to find appropriate solutions for the future and helps to identify and manage risks. This helps to make underground infrastructure safe, reliable, and sustainable. Deltares offers advice based on in-depth knowledge, decades of experience, and solid scientific research.

Climate change and underground infrastructure

When designing, building, and maintaining underground infrastructure, it is important to consider the consequences of climate change. Climate change increases the likelihood of higher temperatures and floods due to increased rainfall, storms, and waterlogging, and subsidence. The future climate has an impact on the reliability of underground infrastructure. Knowledge about the effects of climate change can help to sustainably manage the underground infrastructure of tomorrow.

Issues on which Deltares offers research and advice Deltares is an independent knowledge institute in the field of water and subsurface.

Issues related to underground infrastructure that Deltares is involved in include:

  • Underground space: how can underground space be used in the future for the necessary underground infrastructure?
  • Sustainability and service life: how can we improve the service life and sustainability of underground infrastructure?
  • Ground and water management: how can we optimize ground and water management to ensure the stability and safety of underground infrastructure?
  • Construction methods: how can new underground infrastructure be constructed cost-effectively for new energy carriers or replacement of existing infrastructure without causing inconvenience?
  • Monitoring and inspection: how can we improve the reliability of underground infrastructure through monitoring and inspection?
  • Risk management: how can we manage and limit risks of damage to underground infrastructure?

Collaboration and knowledge sharing

Deltares works together with a wide range of parties, including governments, network operators, civil engineering companies, energy companies, industries, scientific institutions, and social organizations. The aim is to develop sustainable and innovative solutions for underground infrastructure together. Deltares increases its knowledge and expertise by carrying out projects in co-creation with, among others, universities, other research institutes, and companies in the sector.

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