Another kind of ‘fracking’, this produces geothermal energy

From the AGU fall meeting comes some pragmatic engineering tests with fracking like methods that produce geothermal energy.

Developers of renewable energy and shale gas must overcome fundamental geological and environmental challenges if these promising energy sources are to reach their full potential, according to a trio of leading geoscientists. Their findings were presented on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 5:15 p.m. PT at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, in Room 102 of Moscone Center West.

Stanford geoscientist cites critical need for basic research to unleash promising energy sources

By Mark Shwartz

In fall 2012, Geodynamics Ltd. tested a 2.6-mile-deep well at its Habanero enhanced geothermal pilot project in Australia. The well produced a strong flow of steam with surface temperatures of 375 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. (Photo: Courtesy of Geodynamics Ltd.)

“There is a critical need for scientists to address basic questions that have hindered the development of emerging energy resources, including geothermal, wind, solar and natural gas, from underground shale formations,” said Mark Zoback, a professor of geophysics at Stanford University. “In this talk we present, from a university perspective, a few examples of fundamental research needs related to improved energy and resource recovery.”

Zoback, an authority on shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Committee on Shale Gas Development. His remarks were presented in collaboration with Jeff Tester, an expert on geothermal energy from Cornell University, and Murray Hitzman, a leader in the study of “energy critical elements” from the Colorado School of Mines.

Enhanced geothermal systems

“One option for transitioning away from our current hydrocarbon-based energy system to non-carbon sources is geothermal energy – from both conventional hydrothermal resources and enhanced geothermal systems,” said Zoback, a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.

Unlike conventional geothermal power, which typically depends on heat from geysers and hot springs near the surface, enhanced geothermal technology has been touted as a major source of clean energy for much of the planet.

The idea is to pump water into a deep well at pressures strong enough to fracture hot granite and other high-temperature rock miles below the surface. These fractures enhance the permeability of the rock, allowing the water to circulate and become hot.

A second well delivers steam back to the surface. The steam is used to drive a turbine that produces electricity with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions. The steam eventually cools and is re-injected underground and recycled to the surface.

In 2006, Tester co-authored a major report on the subject, estimating that 2 percent of the enhanced geothermal resource available in the continental United States could deliver roughly 2,600 times more energy than the country consumes annually.

But enhanced geothermal systems have faced many roadblocks, including small earthquakes that are triggered by hydraulic fracturing. In 2005, an enhanced geothermal project in Basel, Switzerland, was halted when frightened citizens were shaken by a magnitude 3.4 earthquake. That event put a damper on other projects around the world.

Last year, Stanford graduate student Mark McClure developed a computer model to address the problem of induced seismicity.

Instead of injecting water all at once and letting the pressure build underground, McClure proposed reducing the injection rate over time so that the fracture would slip more slowly, thus lowering the seismicity. This novel technique, which received the 2011 best paper award from the journal Geophysics, has to be tested in the field.

Shale gas

Zoback also will also discuss challenges facing the emerging shale gas industry. “The shale gas revolution that has been under way in North America for the past few years has been of unprecedented scale and importance,” he said. “As these resources are beginning to be developed globally, there is a critical need for fundamental research on such questions as how shale properties affect the success of hydraulic fracturing, and new methodologies that minimize the environmental impact of shale gas development.”

Approximately 30,000 shale gas wells have already been drilled in North America, he added, yet fundamental challenges have kept the industry from maximizing its full potential. “The fact is that only 25 percent of the gas is produced, and 75 percent is left behind,” he said. “We need to do a better job of producing the gas and at the same time protecting the environment.”

Earlier this year, Zoback and McClure presented new evidence that in shale gas reservoirs with extremely low permeability, pervasive slow slip on pre-existing faults may be critical during hydraulic fracturing if it is to be effective in stimulating production.

Even more progress is required in extracting petroleum, Zoback added. “The recovery of oil is only around 5 percent, so we need to do more fundamental research on how to get more hydrocarbons out of the ground,” he said. “By doing this better we’ll actually drill fewer wells and have less environmental impact. That will benefit all of the companies and the entire nation.”

Energy critical elements

Geology plays a surprising role in the development of renewable energy resources.

“It is not widely recognized that meeting domestic and worldwide energy needs with renewables, such as wind and solar, will be materials intensive,” Zoback said. “However, elements like platinum and lithium will be needed in significant quantities, and a shortage of such ‘energy critical elements’ could significantly inhibit the adoption of these otherwise game-changing technologies.”

Historically, energy critical elements have been controlled by limited distribution channels, he said. A 2009 study co-authored by Hitzman found that China produced 71 percent of the world’s supply of germanium, an element used in many photovoltaic cells. Germanium is typically a byproduct of zinc extraction, and China is the world’s leading zinc producer.

About 30 elements are considered energy critical, including neodymium, a key component of the magnets used in wind turbines and hybrid vehicles. In 2009, China also dominated the neodymium market.

“How these elements are used and where they’re found are important issues, because the entire industrial world needs access to them,” Zoback said. “Therefore, if we are to sustainably develop renewable energy technologies, it’s imperative to better understand the geology, metallurgy and mining engineering of these critical mineral deposits.”

Unfortunately, he added, there is no consensus among federal and state agencies, the global mining industry, the public or the U.S. academic community regarding the importance of economic geology in securing a sufficient supply of energy critical elements.

Panel discussion

Immediately following the Dec. 4 AGU talk, Zoback will participate in a panel discussion at 5:35 p.m. on the challenges and opportunities for energy and resource recovery. The panel will be led by Joseph Wang of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and will include William Brinkman of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science; Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey; and Jennifer Uhle of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research.

On Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 12:05 p.m., Zoback will deliver another talk on the risk of triggering small-to-moderate size earthquakes during carbon capture and storage.

Carbon capture technology is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide from industrial smokestacks and sequestering the CO2 in underground reservoirs or mineral deposits.

Zoback will outline several elements of a risk-based strategy for assessing the potential for accidentally inducing earthquakes in carbon dioxide reservoirs. The talk will be held in Room 2004, Moscone Center West.

Mark Shwartz writes about science and technology at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

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40 thoughts on “Another kind of ‘fracking’, this produces geothermal energy

  1. Fracking in the UK was brought to a halt by a 1.5 mag. quake so I wont be too harsh on the Swiss. Some people do need to keep things in proportion though.

  2. Why, oh why must they enhance. Have they not heard of walk before run?

    Geothermal is so simple, so basic and all parts off the shelf. Look at Hawaii. Loads of surface hot rocks. Make it fully geothermal now.

    Sure research enhancement, improvements and such but do the business now.

    If fracking works for oil, it will work for geothermal, indeed i think they did that at Geyser (correct place name?) in California to restore old Geothermal plants.

    Same can be done with water, frack a bit to return excess surface water to deplted aquifers.

    Its not rocket science.

    Like anything, the closer the hot spot to the plant, the lower the start up cost but higher risk. So make the expensive plants floating, if it gets too hot, tow them away. Think outside the box. Yse new materials such as carbon fibre pipes. Very strong, insulating and corrosion resistent and can be mad very cheaply as not a complex shape.

    Many places have hot rocks, it takes very little ti link them into major grids. Take Indonesia, a few two hundred kilometer HVDC connectors and all the power is linked to the whole of South East Asia.

  3. I owned some shares in Geodynamics once, alas. It was the usual ‘alterrnative’ energy story — shuffle along for a while on government handouts and investments from gullible punters, go broke, find a sympathetic ear in the media, drum up some more support and start all over again. Now I buy shares in oil and gas companies.

  4. I understand there are at least two problems with geothermal not addressed by this very good paper. First is that of quickly using up the available energy. Second is having the water “disappear”.
    Is there more information on these?

  5. Interesting Article. Especially in its apparent lack of any alarmism. Just the facts, just the facts. The ‘fracking’ (that word drives me crazy, it’s not a word at all) earthquake in Switzerland caused a stir, and potential lawsuits, and though such earthquakes are not likely to cause any damage, the ‘threat’ remains, that can be blown out of proportion by the opportunistic among us.

  6. We have a chap in Australia who is an expert in small dead animals and therefore, as an expert in climate prediction, he has had amazing success with geothermal energy.
    He is possibly one of the most successful ever, in my opinion.
    Simply by reading out a few fairy tales he managed to get a grant of $90 MILLION from the government to go towards his geothermal company.
    90 MILLION BUCKS for a fairy story – who else has come even close to that?!
    Anyway, after he got the money the technology turned out to be useless and the company tanked but I hardly see that as relevant…

  7. “One option for transitioning away from our current hydrocarbon-based energy system to non-carbon sources is geothermal energy – from both conventional hydrothermal resources and enhanced geothermal systems,” said Zoback, a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.

    Hyperbole. It could produce some energy, but it is not going to allow us to transition away.

    “There is a critical need for scientists to address basic questions that have hindered the development of emerging energy resources, including geothermal, wind, solar and natural gas, from underground shale formations,” said Mark Zoback, a professor of geophysics at Stanford University.

    All the money and all the people working on wind and solar for the last 30 years, and this guy says, “There is a critical need for scientists to address basic questions.” What did you do with the last billion dollars we gave you?

  8. The two maps, with locations shown below, demonstrate how abundant shale gas deposits are in both Europe and the USA.

    http://energypolicyinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/europe-shale-gas-map.bmp

    Almost out of nowhere has come the technology to provide cheap, reliable, abundant energy. Unlike renewables which are expensive and unreliable and likely soon to become rusting relics which our descendants will one day describe as the legacy of “a world gone mad”.

    Fracking for natural gas will soon be as important to the world economy as the internet and the industrialisation of the Far East. So obviously the greenies and loony politicians are against it; after all it makes far too much common sense to them. Of course, there will be initial teething problems as this excellent article states – minor seismic events, very occasional ground water pollution (in most cases it turns out the water was already polluted). So who is rumoured to be funding the anti-fracking movement in Europe? Step forward Russia’s Gazprom – I wonder why?!?

    Fracking for geothermal energy – if proven economic and technically feasible – could totally change the world economy and its politics. A non polluting, infinite source of energy, assuming of course you have the right type of rocks.,

  9. Zoback, an authority on shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Committee on Shale Gas Development. His remarks were presented in collaboration with Jeff Tester, an expert on geothermal energy from Cornell University, and Murray Hitzman, a leader in the study of “energy critical elements” from the Colorado School of Mines. …
    Panel discussion

    Immediately following the Dec. 4 AGU talk, Zoback will participate in a panel discussion at 5:35 p.m. on the challenges and opportunities for energy and resource recovery. The panel will be led by Joseph Wang of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and will include William Brinkman of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science; Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey; and Jennifer Uhle of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research.

    On Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 12:05 p.m., Zoback will deliver another talk on the risk of triggering small-to-moderate size earthquakes during carbon capture and storage.

    Carbon capture technology is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide from industrial smokestacks and sequestering the CO2 in underground reservoirs or mineral deposits.

    DOE, NRC, and “.edu” funded sources looking for DOE (White-House) selected politically-corrupt (er, politically-correct) “solutions” to problems the White House, DOE, and EPA, and NRC deliberately caused.

    NOTHING is dirtier than hot, chemically-polluted, heavy metal-saturated water directly vented from hot, highly pressurized ground water extracted from the metal-bearing, contaminated salts and magma tens of thousands below ground.

    Elementary thermodynamic steam power plant calculations show that the most efficient process require the highest possible source temperature at the highest possible pressure condensing into the lowest possible exhaust temperature at the l;owest possible pressure.

    Here, he believes taking modestly hot, highly-contaminated low-pressure water filled with salts and corrosives and heavy-metal poisens and venting THAT into the atmosphere will generate power over the long term? What will “refill” the underwater reservoirs touching the hot rocks below? What will “reheat
    those formerly hot rocks when their heat is extracted in large quantities? Conduction below in rock is a slooooooooooow process – when the first plants’ underwater sources are cool, where does he drill to get hotter water rocks? When does he go back to the first bore holes (now blocked!) to restart them generating power later? How does he justify drilling the three dozen boreholes to get only 4 active holes?

    Later, he talks about re-pressurizing the water and re-injecting it. Yes – that part of the process is needed – if only because there isn’t enough ground water to use in all parts of the known US and Canada and Australia. Where does THAT money and energy to re-pressurize the water come from? If you imagine hot ground water coming up then heating a (clean, pure water) secondary system which runs a steam cycle which is cooled by a third water system to cool and condense the secondary system which is cooled by a fourth (water or air?) system to cool the cooling system …. Then you have to re-inject the not-so-hot-anymore primary water system back to higher-than-original-ground water pressure to get it to go back back below tens of thousands of feet below ground.

    But your inefficiencies below kill the process. Water injected below in a return well into a fractured hot water rock reservoir won’t all recycle into the the sucking well to go back up. He estimates that only 5 to 25% of available oil or water below ground is retrieved via fracking now. Doesn’t this imply I need to inject 100 gallons of water from the surface to be able to pull back up 20 gallons from the reservoir underground? How long do I wait (injecting surface water underground) to establish that ideal re-cycling underground water loop he expected/requires? 5 years? 10 years? Forever?

    Yes – I’d like to read the simplified source “model” this “scientist” wrote to claim 2900 times the US energy can come from underground hot rocks.

    The whole scheme is a deliberately written DOE funding source. For the writers and “scientists” getting THEIR money from THEIR politicians.

  10. Geothermal is assumed to be non-polluting. Until you find out exactly what comes out along with the heated water. The entire periodic table of elements can come out with it. See Yellowstone geothermal pools, black smokers in the ocean etc.

  11. And about the “Geysers” over in California?

    “The Geysers electrical plant reached peak production in 1987, at that time serving 1.8 million people. Since then, the steam field has been in gradual decline as its underground water source decreases. Currently, the Geysers produce enough electricity for 1.1 million people.”

    Earlier, that same wiki source noted above pointed out that the new “monopoly” owner of the Geyser field was desirable because there isn’t enough geothermal energy to run all the current wells at one time without reducing the output of adjacent wells. Also, magnitude 4 siesmic events are increasing above the underground reservoir … and this before enhanced water injection begins.

    So, the only viable but subsidized and environmentally-immune geothermal reservoir in the continental US is over-subscribed, reducing output, and is getting increasingly seismically active as more water is re-injected. And it can’t provide all the power needed in its local area!

  12. Grey Lensman says:

    > Same can be done with water, frack a bit to return excess surface water to deplted aquifers.

    Do you think wet clay will lend itself to tracking?

  13. Geodynamics is in real strife to make it self profitable and it’s tech work…. Last I heard is that they still haven’t solved their corrosion problems … and of course in a water deficient country like Australia, having a large water source near a hot rock source, near enough to a population center to use the electricity it generates… is a problem… Most people in Aus, would rather use the water themselves and have coal or gas to power their electrical needs….. Geothermal hot rocks power is a pipe dream… and a pipe dream who’s pipes keep corroding.

  14. Surface water seeps into the the surface rocks – the underground aquifer under the Texas hill country is 250 to 500 feet under the surface. The central US aquifer is slightly deeper, but its upper water level is higher – 50 to 150 feet under the surface. Both – obviusly – are replinshed from rain water, and only a little from run-off (flowing) water. Natural “lakes” and rivers are almost unknown in both areas – particularly in the dry seasons. (River/creeks are less than 1/4 of 1 percent of the surface area. natural lakes or ponds are very, very rare in the high plains and the hill country.

    Effective (economical) fracking requires an impermeable rock layer ABOVE the fracked area to restrain the high-pressure water. Fracking occurs 6000 ft to 8000 ft below (very, very seldom lower than 15000 feet below ground due to the high cost of drilling. Hot rock doesn’t happen until 15,000 to 25,000 feet down. )

  15. Peter Miller:

    At December 5, 2012 at 4:45 am you say

    Fracking for geothermal energy – if proven economic and technically feasible – could totally change the world economy and its politics. A non polluting, infinite source of energy, assuming of course you have the right type of rocks.,

    And therein lies the rub: “the right type of rocks”.

    Real geothermal energy is very economic where it is possible. For example, Iceland produces its electricity from geothermal energy. Indeed, geothermal energy is used on a significant scale in California, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand and Japan. The obtained geothermal energy is considered to be useful for electricity generation when the obtained heated water has a temperature of 150 deg.C or higher.

    But ‘hot rocks’ is a scam.

    ‘Hot rocks’ have been promoted as a possible source of low-grade heat for decades. Several ‘studies’ have been conducted notably here in Cornwall and in Australia. All such ‘studies’ have failed because the technology is incapable of being economic. And the analogy with fracking for shale gas is false.

    In shale gas fracking the ground is cracked to release the gas which escapes up a bore hole under its own pressure where it can be collected so its combustion provides much energy.

    In both geothermal energy and ‘hot rocks’ the ground is cracked and water is pumped down one bore hole, through the cracks, and up another bore hole. The cracked rocks are hot so heat the water passing through the cracks. This provides low-grade heat in the water from the up-flow borehole of ‘hot rocks’. Real geothermal energy obtains much hotter water or steam so there is much more energy obtained from the activity.

    The cracks tend to close under gravity so it becomes progressively more difficult to pump the water through them. The closure rate can be inhibited by injecting sand, but the closure inexorably occurs so the rocks have to be repeatedly cracked.

    More energy is used to crack rocks than is obtained as low-grade heat and, therefore, ‘hot rocks’ is inherently uneconomic. This differs from real geothermal energy which provides a net output of energy.

    The above article reports a potential solution to this problem of the cracks closing. It says

    Instead of injecting water all at once and letting the pressure build underground, McClure proposed reducing the injection rate over time so that the fracture would slip more slowly, thus lowering the seismicity. This novel technique, which received the 2011 best paper award from the journal Geophysics, has to be tested in the field.

    “Has yet to be tested in the field”?
    OK. So this is yet another suggestion for how to obtain monies for yet another ‘hot rocks’ study. The reduced “seismicity” of cracking the ground is not the problem: closure of the cracks is.

    On the basis of how politicians have repeatedly been suckered into funding ‘hot rocks’ studies over past decades, I confidently predict
    (a) funding will be obtained for the method “to be tested in the field”
    and
    (b) the method will fail.

    Richard

  16. I don’t want to sound overly negative but geothermal energy is not without its problems and difficulties. One difficulty is with fracking and and injection in relatively dry but hot geological units. It has been known for decades in deep well injection can, and the operative word here is can, under the right conditions cause earth tremors. The geothermal boys ran into this problem in California a few years back. Like any other natural system it more heterogeneous then homogenous. Much like any other natural resources fuel grade geothermal is not uniformly spread around. That’s enough warts for today.

  17. Who the hell would frack wet clay. Stupid question. Same with all the power efficiency stuff. How efficient is wind or solar.

    Extract Geothermal from simple easy reliable hot rocks. Is that difficult to understand. Look at oil, loads of resources all over the world, but only a small percentage is recoverable.

    20 GW of Geothermal Power, delivered to grid, is 20GW which ever way you slice it.

    Polluted water, Well shut down Yellowstone park ,such places should not be allowed.

    Look at Iceland and New Zealand. Oh and Hawaii is going to run out of heat, really?
    .

  18. From my research over a year ago, one big problem is extracting that water that is injected – it goes many places where it is lost. Seems to depend very highly on the rock structures that lie where the geothermal process is to begin. Sort of like drilling an oil well – won’t know whether the well will produce anything unless you drill way down to find out. Statements like “2% can produce X % of our needs is totally misleading, both when applied to geo and wind, wave, etc. Practicality of an energy source has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of energy potentially contained in that source. What’s most important is whether the energy is controllable (and how cheap to extract ) – that is what mainly drives up costs, due to the need for duplicate power generators. Only hydro (more or less) and geo are “green sources” that can be controlled. Bizarre is the claim that we need more research into solar and wind. To find out what? Nothing more than a general attempt to get more research funding I presume.
    As I recall, the western half of the country has more potent reachable geo sources than the eastern half (higher temps). Geo theoretically has a lot going for it, but also seems to be the hardest to deal with.
    Of course,the smart move would be to simply build more nuclear plants. Naw…!! . that would be too easy and wouldn’t put research grant money into the pockets of these guys.

  19. ..Habanero enhanced geothermal pilot project..

    I can definitely see how using Habanero peppers would significantly enhance energy creation and recovery.

  20. M3.4? Frack this: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/ak10612174#summary
    Enough to make my office building take up the slack the other day. Since this is a structural engineering office we find these morbidly interesting and some of us immediately try to estimate magnitude, distance and depth, without much accuracy of course. We clocked it running for 45 seconds, a couple good waves then very light rocking (our building is stiff so it stopped sympathizing as soon as ground motion quit). Keep ‘em little, lets not over do it now. Oh, relevance, I don’t think we would have any worries with micro quakes from fracking around here.

  21. As Richard Courtney points out above, it works great if you’re in a wet country on the mid-Atlantic ridge. Hellisheiði Power Station has been producing power in southern Iceland since 2006 in ever increasing quantities – now nearly 0.5GW.

    There are some problems with micro-seismic events:

    http://www.jonfr.com/volcano/?p=1514

    but in a country that has had 71 tremors in the last 48 hours:

    http://en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes/

    the seismic effects are totally ignored.

  22. To Tom B. It’s been done. The Habanero field is 214 miles southwest of New Orleans in 2860 feet of water and has been producing oil and gas since 1994. I go a shirt with peppers on it for working on the field. :)

  23. The top picture of the Geodynamics geothermal steam production test, immediately brought to my mind a story about oil gushers at Spindletop, 1901-1902.

    The initial six wells on Spindletop blew out starting an oil boom bringing people to Beaumont in SE Texas. What I remember reading was that after the boom was well on, at least on one occasion a gusher was purposely set off as a passenger train with high-heeled investors was pulling into Beaumont. As I said, I can’t verify it on the net today, but this story on the 100th anniversary of Spindletop from the Houston Chronicle outlines, enough was going on for the area also to be knows as “Swindletop.” http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl/2001_3272257/spindletop-drew-world-to-beaumont-oil-industry-cam.html

    So the next time you see a picture of a geothermal “gusher”, have a think about Spindletop. There is no doubt many people made fortunes there. A great many lost fortunes, too.

  24. This is a bit off topic, but it came up in the research for the “Spindletop / Swindletop” post above.

    I chanced on several articles dealing with cellulosic biofuel company KiOR. This little AltEnergyStocks piece (Nov. 9? 2012) is quite over the top: “Gusher! KiOR starts production of US cellulosic biofuels at scale” Without shame, the article uses a 1901 Spindletop photo to describe the long-delayed opening of a “500 ton/day” biofuels plant

    At its Columbus-based 500 ton per day plant, KiOR is processing renewable oil that is on-spec for hydrotreating into gasoline and diesel. With scale-up, total cost per gallon drops to $5.95 by 2013, $3.73 per gallon in 2014, and the magic sub-$3.00 figure in 2015 when it is expected to reach $2.62 per gallon at full-scale.

    Assuming they make it to 2015: The cash burn is high. “The cash balance is $74 million, down $33 million during 3Q [2012]. More earnings info inside the link. Another article give its production capacity: “will be able to make more than 13 million gallons ..of gasoline and diesel annually when it reaches full capacity in nine to 12 months. That’s about 40,000 gals per day …or about five gasoline tanker trucks per day.

  25. Indeed, the problem is 570 degrees F.
    It seems unbelievable that we can’t get past 7.4 miles of borehole depth because of a measly 570 degree break point.

  26. In 2010, the price estimate for geothermal drilling was 14.00 to 19.00 dollars.

    Per foot.

    20.00 per foot x 7.4 miles x 5000 ft/mile = ….

    For a single well that won’t produce power effectively: 570 degrees F rock isn’t enough to produce even 330 degrees thermal as steam over a single year’s service.

  27. R.A Cook

    Why drill to such depth? No need. Plenty of surface heat. Plenty of well proven low temp low pressure turbines as well.

    So far, I see little science or engineering here and a total lack of the old American “can do” ethic.

    Look at how much power has been and still is being produced at the Geyers, and that with very old knowledge and skills base.

    Why has the UK signed a MOU with Iceland to cogenerate Geothermal Power, because its easy, cheap and plentyful and within range of a HVDC connection cable.

    The longest so far, the NorNed paid for itself in about ten months.

    re cold rocks, drilled to depth, Southampton in the Uk has been up and running for ten years and is being expanded.

    Fact is, Hawaii should be energy independent now and zero wind mills required.

  28. @Bloke Down The Pub: A 1.5 ? Really? That’s like a truck driving down the street. I don’t even notice if they are below a 3 at all and I’ve had some 4.5 ish ones happen that didn’t make an impression. Frankly, having been through a 7.x, even the 5 and 6 scale are now kind of a disappointment. Not long enough or enough ‘roll’ to enjoy “surfing the P wave” ;-)

    FWIW, the Salton Sea area has a large geothermal facility too.

    http://www.energyrefuge.com/archives/salton-sea-geothermal.htm

    Owned by the CalEnergy Company, The Salton Sea geothermal project consists of 10 generating plants which produce electricity solely from naturally occurring geothermal steam. According to information on CalEnergy’s website, four of the Imperial Valley facilities – Vulcan, Hoch, Elmore and Leathers – are under contract to sell power to Southern California Edison Company under 30-year power purchase agreements. Four other power plants – Salton Sea 1, 2, 3 and 4 – also sell energy to Edison under 30-year power purchase agreements. Salton Sea 5 and the CE Turbo plant sell virtually all of their power to third parties. The combined capacity at Imperial Valley is 327 net megawatts (nominal). The plants produce enough electricity to power over 100,000 homes.

    I think 327 MW is a non-trival amount of power. Oh, and about the ‘toxic minerals’… they get extracted and sold, then the condensed water gets recycled to pick up more heat…

    Besides investing in energy generation, CalEnergy has also spent $400 million on a facility to extract 300,000 metric tonnes of zinc per year from spent geothermal brines at Salton Sea geothermal power plants.

    BTW, no need to go 7 miles deep… We have volcanoes here, so the hot rock comes to you ;-)

    http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Glossary/ThermalActivity/description_thermal_activity.html

    Casa Diablo Hot Springs and Geothermal Facility
    Long Valley, Caldera, California

    The Casa Diablo Hot Springs site is located on the southwestern edge of the resurgent dome along a major fault system. The fault forms the east side of the down-dropped block that transects the resurgent dome. This down-dropped block is called the medial graben. Three binary-cycle generators built here in 1985 and 1990 produce about 45 megawatts of electricity. Wells, each about 200 meters deep, supply the powerplants with 170 degree water. Heat exchangers transfer the thermal energy from the water to isobutane, which vaporizes and drives turbine generators.

    Notice that’s 200 meters or about 700 feet. Yes, it’s a lower temperature facility, but still, 45 megawatts from a shallow well? Works for me…

    Too bad it won’t last…. Long Valley is a supervolcano and will eventually blow up and wipe out Southern California… then again, we won’t need the electricity then either ;-)

    Oh, and don’t forget that even just putting PVC / ABS pipe under 10 feet of dirt in the yard and using it as a ground source heat pump provides net usable energy. Not usually what folks think of when Geothermal is discussed, yet it is…

    So, for the naysayers in the group: We’ve had geothermal here in California for a long long time. It works. It’s profitable. The water is condensed and recycled, and along the way you can extract industrial minerals. California isn’t exactly water rich (being the subject of “Cadillac Desert”) so water needs are easily managed. Yes, output drops off after the first few years / decades. So what? That’s planned in now. It works best in places with some volcanic heat as the depth gets fairly shallow… but not too much, please ;-)

    Don’t think I’d try putting one on top of 4000 foot of granite mountain in Colorado, but there are plenty of places that work…

  29. Thank you E.M.Smith, some new uses for Geothermal to add to my bow. Mineral recovery is neat.

    Look up Sundrop, farms with no water or soil using saline water.

    The things that we actually can do.

  30. Grey Lensman:

    In my post at December 5, 2012 at 6:39 am I explained

    Real geothermal energy is very economic where it is possible. For example, Iceland produces its electricity from geothermal energy. Indeed, geothermal energy is used on a significant scale in California, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand and Japan.

    But ‘hot rocks’ is a scam.

    In your post at December 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm you imply that because real geothermal is useful and economic then ‘hot rocks’ is also worthwhile. This is the same false argument that shysters promoting ‘hot rocks’ have always used.

    You say

    re cold rocks, drilled to depth, Southampton in the Uk has been up and running for ten years and is being expanded.

    Yes, this is another example of the public being ripped-off by political support of uneconomic ‘renewables’.

    The pro-AGW and pro-renewables wicki says this about the Southampton usage of ‘hot rocks’

    In the 1980s, the United Kingdom Department of Energy undertook a research and development programme to examine the potential of geothermal aquifers in the UK. However after some initial success drilling a well in the Wessex Basin in 1981, it was deemed too small to be commercially viable. The project was abandoned by the Department of Energy, but Southampton City Council refused to let the project fall and took the decision to create the UK’s first geothermal power scheme. This was undertaken as part of a plan to become a ‘self sustaining city’ in energy generation, promoted by then leader of the city council Alan Whitehead. The scheme was eventually developed in conjunction with French-owned company COFELY District Energy and the Southampton Geothermal Heating Company was then established. Construction started in 1987 on a well to draw water from the Wessex Basin aquifer at a depth of 1,800 metres and a temperature of 76 °C.[2]

    The scheme now heats a number of buildings in the city centre, including the Southampton Civic Centre and the WestQuay shopping centre, by providing 8% of the heat distributed by a larger city centre district heating system that includes other combined heat and power sources.[3] Geothermal energy provides 16 GWh of heat per year.[4]

    In other words, the local council runs a small, subsidised and uneconomic scheme for ‘green’ political reasons. And Council Tax payers foot the bill for this waste.

    Richard

  31. Richard, thanks for your input and on the whole, i agree. Deep hot rocks, whilst possible is not the way to go. As with oil you drill the shallow easy access ones before you go offshore. I only noted Southampton as an example of working hot rocks. However, if you read their report, it is very difficult to make any sense of it. That gives the suspicion that they are covering up something.

    As i keep repeating there are very many high temp hot spots all over the world, Hawaii being a good example.

    I also like multitasking, using the hot water to heat/cool greenhouses, or homes, distil brine water, to enable every bit of energy to be used.

    I also see no reason at all not to get up close with transportable floating generators. If the source, gets bit frisky, move away.

    New Zealand has done well but I feel they paid way to high a price for a very simple well proven system, but that is a different matter, but one linked to noses in the trough we see in wind farms and solar farms.

  32. Grey Lensman:

    Thankyou for your comment addressed to me at December 6, 2012 at 4:15 am. It seems our views have much more in common than I understood from your earlier post.

    Your reply to me includes

    As i keep repeating there are very many high temp hot spots all over the world, Hawaii being a good example.

    I also like multitasking, using the hot water to heat/cool greenhouses, or homes, distil brine water, to enable every bit of energy to be used.

    I strongly agree about Hawaii. Some years ago I tried to promote adoption of geothermal power on the Big Island but local cultural obstacles were insurmountable, and I strongly suspect they still are.

    As for what you call “multitasking”, I agree that too. However, cultural difficulties also inhibit cogeneration in some places.

    Richard

  33. Thinking outside the box, just ask yourself what’s the energy source that heats the rocks in the first place….

    Answer: Thorium…

    I really think that we’re wasting valuable time, capital and resources on expensive/unreliable/inefficient/limited alternative energy projects that are driven by govt grants and subsidies rather than the free market.

    Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) are a proven, dirt cheap, unlimited energy source that the Chinese, Indians and Japanese are all working hard to develop ( especially China).

    The only thing holding up the US and Europe’s development is the government’s unwillingness to sanction it’s development. If governments gave the green light for LFTR development, the private sector could have a working prototype in operation within a few years..

    Alas, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for political/cronyism reasons is unwilling allow LFTR development…. And so it goes…

    No worries, we’ll just buy LFTRs from China in the future, along with everything else we buy from them now….

  34. Richard, interesting point about the “cultural” issue but not one that I comprehend.

    Hawaii, I assume is mainly conventional power, boiler, turbine, generator and condenser. So easy to convert. Gas axe boiler steam line, tee in the new source and off you go. Can then use the old boiler to grow mushrooms.

    Yes, OK, Not so easy but you get my drift.

  35. RE: SAMURAI: (December 6, 2012 at 11:44 am)

    “Thinking outside the box, just ask yourself what’s the energy source that heats the rocks in the first place….

    “Answer: Thorium…

    “I really think that we’re wasting valuable time, capital and resources on expensive/unreliable/inefficient/limited alternative energy projects that are driven by govt grants and subsidies rather than the free market.

    “Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) are a proven, dirt cheap, unlimited energy source that the Chinese, Indians and Japanese are all working hard to develop ( especially China).”

    Well and good, but perhaps for now the answer is still uranium.

    Dr David Leblanc of Canada points out that the only reason for building a uranium breeding thorium reactor is a lack of sufficient uranium. But, Liquid Fueled Molten Salt reactors can burn uranium so much more efficiently that they greatly extend the life of that resource. Solid fuel reactors must have their fuel rods removed after burning only a small fraction of their fuel because they swell from the accumulation of trapped nuclear waste. Liquid fueled reactors do not have this problem and because of their high efficiency, these reactors can tolerate much higher mined uranium costs without materially impacting the cost of electricity produced.

    Liquid Fueled, Uranium Reactors (perhaps ‘LFURs’) would possess all the safety features touted for LFTRs without requiring the complex, dual fluid breeder design of the latter. He says that these high temperature reactors should be ideal for generating the pressures required for harvesting the remaining unconventional petroleum from the oil sands.

    David LeBlanc – Molten Salt Reactor Designs,
    Options & Outlook @ TEAC4

    39 approve, 0 disapprove; 2671 Views; 19:46 mins
    “Published on Jul 20, 2012
    “Canadian David LeBlanc describes the benefits of liquid fuel Molten Salt Reactors over solid fuel reactors, emphasizing reactor design over any relative advantages of thorium or uranium.
    “‘Come for the thorium, stay for the reactor!'”

  36. Grey Lensman:

    At December 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm you say to me:

    Richard, interesting point about the “cultural” issue but not one that I comprehend.

    Hawaii, I assume is mainly conventional power, boiler, turbine, generator and condenser. So easy to convert. Gas axe boiler steam line, tee in the new source and off you go. Can then use the old boiler to grow mushrooms.

    Yes, OK, Not so easy but you get my drift.Donald L. Klipstein:

    I again agree your points about waste heat. Economics will decide such matters. For example, here in the UK there are greenhouses which use some waste heat from a power station to assist the horticulture of tomatoes.

    I write to clarify the “cultural issues”.

    Strangely, and to my surprise, I discovered there is opposition to anything which interacts with volcanism on the Big Island. Simply, anything which may interact with the volcano is feared. I strongly suspect this cultural fear is a ‘hang-over’ from the ancient religion which was once practiced on the island.

    Cogeneration requires a degree of cooperation among participants in a district heating scheme, and it provides reliance on the supplier of the heat. Hence, for example, the individualistic culture of the US inhibits adoption of district heating schemes similar to those which are common in Eastern Europe. However, some US institutions do use cogeneration usually when they have their own power generation facilities.

    I hope this brief answer is sufficient to explain what I meant.

    Richard

  37. Thank you Richard. Understood with the caveat that I dont think that Corporations care much for peoples sensitivities.

    Yes, utilising waste heat needs co-operation but that is not forbidden by free markets.

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