28 May 2008

Hot Rocks Geothermal: Google Looks to Invest

Enhanced geothermal power uses drilling technology to punch two or more holes down into the "hot dry rock" layer of the Earth's crust. Water is then pumped into one hole and steam is extracted from the other hole(s), to drive a turbine generator for electric power. Enhanced geothermal is being pursued in Israel by Ormat Technologies. Google is taking a look at the technology for possible investment.
Executives at Google have been clear that so-called enhanced geothermal is on the list of technologies they see as cost effective, compared with fossil fuel energy.

The idea behind enhanced, or engineered, geothermal systems is to inject water underground to enhance the permeability of rock, allowing for the release and capture of more heat.Ormat is working on an enhanced geothermal project organized by the U.S. Department of Energy, which says that these advanced techniques can dramatically increase geothermal potential--by 40 times. __Cnet_via_NextBigFuture
The US DOE believes enhanced geothermal to have the potential to generate thousands of times the energy and power used by humans over the entire planet.

Humans have access to three virtually unlimited sources of energy that can supply their energy needs thousands of times over into the indefinite future. Solar--which needs better storage. Geothermal--which needs technology development. Nuclear fusion--which needs technology development. Biomass could easily supply all of humanities energy needs given more development--but probably not thousands of times over.

We are living in and near an abundance of energy.

Taken from Al Fin Energy

More at Brian Wang's NextBigFuture


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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

Some people have claimed that the recovery rate of water is too low. I don't know what they base that claim on but it sounds like it might be a valid concern. Sending water through rock fissures might maximize heat exchange and be cheaper to install but wouldn't some kind of piping network make for less water loss?

Wednesday, 28 May, 2008  
Blogger Omar Basawad said...

A very informative and instructive blog! I certainly will be a regular visitor here.

Thursday, 29 May, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Baron: Placing networks of pipe a few miles underground might be a bit tricky. Using fissured rock will involve some water losses, and may put the method off-limits where water availability is a big problem.

Omar: Thanks.

Thursday, 29 May, 2008  
Blogger Will Brown said...

Wasn't there an incident attributed to DoD pumping irradiated water into deep wells causing tectonic activity in a previously stable region in the news a few years ago?

This includes the following reference to an event in 1962:

"Humans may contribute to the cause of earthquakes through a variety of activities such as filling new reservoirs, detonating underground atomic explosives, or pumping fluids deep into the ground through wells. For example, in 1962 Denver, Colorado, in the United States began to experience earthquakes for the first time in its history. The tremors coincided with the pumping of waste fluids into deep wells at an arsenal east of the city. After officials discontinued the pumping, the earthquakes persisted for a while and then ceased."

It's gonna be difficult to wash the baby if the geothermally heated bath water keeps sloshing out of the tub, don't you think? :)

That's the problem with "virtually unlimited sources of energy", we actually want limits - controls might be a better choice of word - on the energy we use.

Once again (I keep doing this, don't I? I don't mean to rain on your parade. Really), another idea that might benefit from further thought.

Thursday, 29 May, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting, Will. We've talked about that issue before.

It actually sounds like a correlation without a cause. Think it through. How much of a fault line would you have to impact to trigger a significant quake? Small quakes detectable mainly through instrumentation are not a problem--particularly if they are relieving stress from a fault line.

These enhanced geothermal wells may have to be located carefully in regard to fault lines, or not. But it is worth looking at, as you say.

Thursday, 29 May, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

There might be some kind of technique that could be used to selectively seal off leaking fractures without clogging the connective ones, if some thought is put into it. Some kind of alternating pressure/chemical gradient of solvents and solutes but I can not currently envision how the process would work.

Actually, pumping sea water or sewage down their might be feasible. Organic molecules and pathogens would be destroyed by the heat while sea salt might be condensed into crystals either in the rock or just before the energy extraction mechanism. Whatever water comes up would mean energy while whatever was lost would be waste disposal.

Friday, 30 May, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

While nature and even human activity can affect geology to an extent, I think that what we do at such a level would be dwarfed by what is naturally going on down their anyway. The subduction of continents alone moves huge amounts of organic mater and sediment into the depths, only to burp forth as various complex crystals, minerals and compounds. If waving your hands could result in a hurricane years from now due to the chaos of the atmosphere there is no reason to not interact with geological forces.

As for needing limits, I feel that we already have plenty. Human intelligence and energy are currently a limit to all sorts of our endeavors from providing adequate health care, education and relieve from poverty to scientific research and development. Physical space and time limit our civilization. If limits are beneficial then we can already count our blessings. I would personally like to see what we can accomplish with fewer limits - when our imagination is our main limit.

Friday, 30 May, 2008  

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