26 April 2010

Spallation Drilling Says: Don't Write off Geothermal Just Yet

Brian Westenhaus took a recent look at the growth in the number of geothermal projects across the US. And a recent Seeker Blog article on geothermal energy suggests that spallation drilling should provide an economic means for drilling at the necessary depths for high quality heat.  The graph below shows the projected economic benefit of spallation drilling vs. conventional deep rock drilling.

Hydrothermal spallation was invented and patented by cofounder Bob Potter and Jefferson Tester of MIT. The patent is owned by MIT and licensed exclusively to Potter Drilling.
An animation of how hydrothermal spallation works.

An animation of how hydrothermal spallation works.
Chad Augustine MIT PhD Thesis Chemical Engineering

Summary of Potter Geothermal project funded by US DOE

Description of hydrothermal spallation drilling at Energy Boom

2006 Technology Review interview with patent holder Jefferson Tester

Adapted from a post published at Al Fin, The Next Level


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Blogger kurt9 said...

Spallation drilling ought to be combined with ultrasonics to make an even more effective drilling method.

Monday, 26 April, 2010  
Blogger astrodominant said...

Very curious to see where these go. There is not enough information to gauge cost vs depth of both techniques. The more expensive conventional wells are horizontal. and you have the issues of borehole stability, lost circulation, well pressure control and a whole host of others. And at greater depths the drilling stream will come back hotter than when it entered due to the temperature gradients involved. Can't wait to see where this goes.

Tuesday, 27 April, 2010  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

An issue that many people don't realize is that when you go deep, you run the risk of a lot of nasty stuff being drawn to the surface from the circulating water:

sulfur containing compounds

As with solar panels, I have yet to see a geothermal project that made sense without massive government subsidies.

Tuesday, 27 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes indeed.

How ironic it would be if clean-green geothermal drillers ended up hitting the mother lode of all giant crude oil deposits by mistake.

Tuesday, 27 April, 2010  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

Al Fin: It that happens, the ghost of Dr. Thomas Gold might crack a smile.

Tuesday, 27 April, 2010  

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