The geothermal energy revolution

Reposted from CFACT

By David Wojick |December 14th, 2020|Energy|

There is a revolution coming in geothermal energy. How big it will be and how fast it can grow remains to be seen, but the revolutionary technology is here now.

We already know about the new technology by name — fracking. But that is fracking for oil and gas, the energy revolution we are already living on, that the greens hate. The geothermal revolution is fracking for heat.

Here is the technical bit. The Earth’s crust we live on is just a thin film wrapped around an 8,000 mile diameter molten ball. In some places under the deep ocean this crust is estimated to be just 3 miles or so thick. It is somewhat thicker under the continents but the point remains; it gets hot fast as you drill down into the crust. That heat is geothermal energy.

We have used geothermal energy to make electricity for a long time, but only in tiny amounts. California does the most in the US and its entire generating capacity is about the size of a single large coal fired power plant, about 3000 MW. The whole world is said to just have a minuscule 15,000 MW.

The obstacle to doing more has been that useful energy sources are hard to find. You need a confined reservoir of hot water in fractured crust rock. The reservoir size, location and temperature of the water are all determined by nature. Suitable sites have been very few.

Now all of this has suddenly changed. With hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) we can make these geothermal reservoirs where we want them, the size we want them, and where the heat is the temperature we want, especially very hot. This includes the so-called “supercritical” water at 400 degrees C, which is now used in the most advanced power-plants.

It is like the difference between living on wild edibles, if and when you find them, and farming. Fracking for heat is literally a whole new world. Of course there are still pesky things like cost, feasibility and regulation, but the principal is clear; the technology of revolutionary thermal energy has arrived.

The greens are in a bit of a bind here. Geothermal juice looks like the ideal renewable. Unlike wind and solar, geothermal electricity is constantly available and it is not a land hog. But the greens despise fracking and have labeled it evil. Some States and even whole Countries have banned fracking for oil and gas. Whether this applies to fracking for heat remains to be seen, since the fracturing processes are rather different.

How this dichotomy will play out is anybody’s guess. As they say here in the mountains: “What goes around, comes around.” That is, don’t start trouble lest it bite you someplace soft. The greens desperately need geothermal fracking, they just don’t know it yet.

The US Energy Department has a Geothermal Technologies Office and they are understandably optimistic. They project something like 60,000 MW of advanced geothermal juice capacity by 2050. Mind you this is still small, given that our present generating capacity is around a million MW.

The amount of geothermal generating capacity installed by 2050 could be much larger, for one simple reason. It is probably the only way to make wind and solar work. A number of analysts, including me, have pointed out that electricity storage on the scale needed to power America with intermittent renewables is impossible. But many States have mandated a high level of renewables, even 100% in extreme cases.

This makes geothermal the perfect renewable, because its power can be available whenever the intermittent generators cannot provide the power we need. The more power we want from renewables, the more geothermal capacity we will need. It is that simple. We could be talking about many hundreds of thousands of MW. If the technology works cost wise it might actually be better than unreliable, land grabbing renewables.

Happily there is a massive frenzy of geothermal research going on, much of it aimed at reducing the obvious obstacles. Searching the engineering and scientific literature for the last five years on the word combination “geothermal” and “research” yields over 100,000 technical articles. That is a lot of research.

So there it is. Geothermal energy is potentially the second fracking revolution. No question the heat is there, thanks to the big molten ball we call Earth. And now we suddenly have the technology to create the infrastructure needed to tap into it. How practical it is, and how acceptable, still remains to be seen. Interesting times lie ahead.


David Wojick, Ph.D. is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy. For origins see

For over 100 prior articles for CFACT see

Available for confidential research and consulting.

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Len Werner
December 14, 2020 11:28 am

I’ll admit that the article spread a grin across my face, having worked in geothermal exploration in the late 70’s, at Meager Creek among others. I believe in its viability enough that I’m installing a ground-source geothermal heating/cooling system in a new house we’re building in the BC Cariboo starting next summer. The temperature-profile logging system I built up is continuously collecting data throughout this winter; I installed it in the ground mid-summer this year.

The grin comes from just as the author suggested, the coming dilemma faced by greens. I suspect that the opposition to fracking was fabricated because it involved the ‘evil oil’, not because of the fracking itself. It sure will be interesting to watch the waffling.

One, if not the most serious, of restrictions to production at Meager was from insufficient fracture porosity at depth, not from lack of temperature. Three deep holes were drilled during my time there of around 4,000 m depth and they produced steam, but not sustainably.

Another problem at Meager is finding a place to put the power lines where the mountain won’t fall on them; it is rotten-to-the-core even more than a lot of governments.

Reply to  Len Werner
December 14, 2020 12:26 pm

Ground source is normally solar, rather than geothermal.

Bruce Ranta
Reply to  Len Werner
December 14, 2020 1:38 pm

I live in nw Ontario and have heated our house – and cooled it – with a ground source heat pump since 1995. Heats the hot water too. Does need electricity to run it, but compared to gas or oil my heating costs are less than half of what it would be. Don’t scrimp on the furnace – go high end or you’ll be sorry.

Reply to  Bruce Ranta
December 14, 2020 3:40 pm

Thanks, Bruce, you make a very good point that many of the greenies should take to heart.

For some reason, the “geothermal” heat pump idea had not caught on as much as I would have thot and beats the hell outta me why not. Down here in the U.S. deep south, a fairly straightforward shallow well to our ground water provides a beautiful transfer of heat/cold back and forth. The water is fairly cool compared to the air outside that is 90 deg or more during the summer, and even a few coils of copper can do more than a large, noisy fan/compressor gizmo we see all over the place. During winter in north FL and along the Gulf coast, heat pumps using outside air for the transfer of “heat” cannot work well once we get below 40 deg or so.

I would have tried for a heat pump at my fishing cabin in Colorado mountainsm but had too much granite right close to the cabin itself. Had I built closer to the stream bed I would have had nice 55 deg water all year long.

Gums sends…

Reply to  Bruce Ranta
December 15, 2020 5:34 am

There are natural gas based heat pumps, including absorption heat pumps and engine heat pumps.

Willem post
Reply to  Len Werner
December 14, 2020 2:11 pm

“Evil oil”

No, no, anything that competes with wind and solar, is damned, whether nuclear, big bad hydro, and all fossil, because WALL STREET wants no interference with subsidy flows.

Wall Street finances green groups, academia, friendly government bureaucrats, and RE friendly Media.


Hans Erren
Reply to  Len Werner
December 14, 2020 10:40 pm

The deeper you get the hotter it gets, but also the tighter the rock gets, and you need a lot of circulating water to get the equivalent energy of hydrocarbons. A lot of geothermal doublets in NL suffer severe scaling. So you need also to put acid into the hole.

Don’t tell the environmetalists. 🙂

December 14, 2020 11:50 am


I predict that if the pseudo-greenies become convinced that geothermal can make intermittent renewables viable, they’ll support it, because, really, it’s all about the Benjamins:

comment image

OTOH, if the pseudo-greenies get the idea that geothermal could make intermittent renewables even more superfluous than they already are, they’ll invent a litany of preposterous ecological harms which “science” says “could” result from geothermal energy production.

Reply to  Dave Burton
December 14, 2020 12:08 pm

I’ll postulate one: Taking the heat out of the earth will cause it to solidify and the Earth’s geomagnetic field to disappear, leaving us goners as the UV radiation kills us and the solar wind blows our atmosphere into outer space.

3, 2, 1 …..

Reply to  rbabcock
December 14, 2020 1:17 pm

Beat me to it. The Greens want us back in the Pleistocene. They will complain that we are transferring heat from the earth’s core to the atmosphere and increasing global warming. I can hear the outcry already: “Leave it in the ground!”

Peter W
Reply to  rbabcock
December 14, 2020 5:05 pm

Not only that, but there is a lot of pressure on top of all that heat, and by getting at that energy we might open up molten geysers, creating mini volcanoes all over the place! Don’t mess with Mother Nature, she is dangerous!

Reply to  rbabcock
December 14, 2020 6:36 pm

Yes. Take heat AWAY from the earth…..the earth COOLS down. Too simple for the simpletons ro understand.

Reply to  Dave Burton
December 14, 2020 12:17 pm

Geothermal would largely undermine the value of wind and solar. These resources don’t contribute significantly to capacity requirements. They only produce energy.

If you need to serve 1,000 MW of load, you can do it with 1,000 MW of gas plants or with 900 MW of gas plants, a bunch of wind and solar, maybe some batteries, and a prayer.

Renewables reduce fuel consumption. They don’t significantly reduce the need for firm plants.

The “problem” with geothermal is that if you build 1,000 MW of geothermal to serve the load reliably, you’re done. Adding wind and solar won’t reduce fuel consumption, because there isn’t any.

One way to address this “problem” would be to design an electrical recharging mechanism for the geothermal reservoir. Set up big resistors that use wind and solar energy to heat up the reservoir when power is cheap. Call it season scale storage. Pretend that it makes the reservoir cheaper by letting it be undersized.

Reply to  vboring
December 14, 2020 12:51 pm

Seems unlikely though that geothemal will ever be 100% of the fuel mix

Reply to  vboring
December 14, 2020 12:55 pm

Renewables don’t even reduce fuel consumption, since you have to keep the fossil fuel plants on hot standby ready to take over when ever the wind stops blowing or a cloud passes over your solar farm.

Reply to  MarkW
December 14, 2020 2:30 pm

Convert windmills into drills, how hard could that be ??

Reply to  vboring
December 17, 2020 7:43 am

I’m no expert, but it seems that if a geothermal well can produce 2⋅X MW peak, but only X MW average, then it would be well matched with wind and/or solar which produce an average of about X MW.

When the sun is out and the wind is blowing, the wind & solar output would enable you to stop or cut way back on the heat draw from the geothermal wells, giving the rocks beneath time to heat back up. When the sun goes down and the wind dies, or when the late afternoon electricity demand peak hits, you can draw more from the geothermal wells.

Of course, it might be more economical to simply use a larger geothermal field (or, better yet, a fossil fuel or nuclear plant). But, in principle, it seems like geothermal could be a good fit with wind and/or solar.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Dave Burton
December 14, 2020 2:52 pm

At their base, greens hate technology. They want wind and solar exactly because wind and solar cannot power a technological civilization.

David Wojick’s article misses the suicidal ideology behind the whole green movement.

Viable geothermal is not a way through to a compromise and prosperity. If geothermal preserves the present way of life, greens will hate it and they will violently oppose it.

Tom Graney
Reply to  Pat Frank
December 14, 2020 5:40 pm

Pat- I think you give them too much credit.

Reply to  Pat Frank
December 14, 2020 9:49 pm

Suicidal is exactly right! Nation after nation, corporation after corporation are lining up to confess their climate sins and make grand promises of atonement, that ignore the severe lack of any climate emergency and promise to plunge them into poverty.
I can’t believe how successful the lie is! President of Pakistan claiming his country is the 8th most vulnerable to climate change and when I click on the link in the news, it comes up with some obscure 44pg piece of ngo crap report that basically counts deaths related to weater as climate deaths! Barely 2°C over the past 200 years, not even back to the temperatures of the Vikings, and the climate Moonies selling out the rest of humanity.

December 14, 2020 11:53 am

The future of power is molten salt nuclear reactors – they can be constructed rapidly and sited absolutely anywhere. They would relegate unreliable renewables like wind and solar to the ashcan of history. Unreliable renewables, in addition to all their other deficiencies , cannot be substituted for reliable power sources they require duplicative power capacity, which costs a large mount, regardless of how little may actually be required to back up unreliable generators. There is zero reason for erecting wind turbines and little reason for home based solar panels – they make every home a complicated mini grid/

John F Hultquist
Reply to  ColMosby
December 14, 2020 12:40 pm

Any thoughts on the “geothermal energy revolution”?

Reply to  ColMosby
December 14, 2020 12:56 pm

They haven’t even been able to build one so far. How can you be so sure they can be built rapidly and anywhere?

Reply to  MarkW
December 14, 2020 3:10 pm

PS: The problems with trying to co-ordinate millions of point sources of power onto a single grid were discussed in an earlier article. Surprised that you missed it.

Reply to  ColMosby
December 16, 2020 9:55 am

Stuck in the past; mired in a rut. You need to “re-canvas” the field and then get back with us …

Mike Smithh
December 14, 2020 11:55 am

Well, if it produces continuous versus intermittent power, the environuts will oppose it.

Because, solar panels, wind turbines and honking great batteries are so very, very good for the environment.

Curious George
December 14, 2020 11:56 am

There is no mention of “carbon” in the article. Aren’t geothermal areas usually a big source of carbon dioxide?

Reply to  Curious George
December 14, 2020 2:11 pm

The geothermal facility in northern Mendocino county in California is a major stationary source of hydrogen sulfide gas, not CO2.

Reply to  Kemaris
December 14, 2020 4:07 pm

Yes, you can always smell geothermal before you can see it. I love that hot springs smell.

Curious George
Reply to  Kemaris
December 15, 2020 2:36 pm

I looked at their website. No mention of H2S or CO2. Of course, you can’t smell CO2 and only Greta can see it.

Reply to  Curious George
December 15, 2020 5:08 pm

That’s The Geysers, a few miles from me. I find:

“The main components in a geothermal power plant at The Geysers are the steam turbine, generator, condenser, cooling tower, gas removal system and hydrogen sulfide abatement system.”

So yes, H2S is an issue.


Robert of Texas
December 14, 2020 11:58 am

If you can match up the heat transfer in to the heat transfer out, then this seems like a viable approach. The problem over a long period is that you can cool the rock too fast and you lose efficiency. Of course the easy way to fix that is to just add a small natural gas burner to keep the steam at an even temperature… LOL

When you think about where the heat is coming from, you essentially are just making use of a giant amount of radioactive fuel. It isn’t really renewable – it will run out – but not in any time frame we care about. (same with wind and solar). The hot rock is the “battery”, storing the energy until it is lost.

If you want to really improve the efficiency, just gather the right radioactive elements together, throw them into molten salt, and out comes a very efficient and controllable Molten Salt Reactor. This is where research money ought to be spent – building some prototypes that can address burning nuclear waste as fuel.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Robert of Texas
December 14, 2020 12:48 pm

Yes Robert, you’re onto it.
From a loooooong time ago, when the interweb was just getting going, I recall articles just like we have here.
All Rose Tinted Glasses and loveliness heaped upon loveliness

The problem is with thermal conductivity of the rock way down-under.
If you think (carefully) for minute or 2 it is obvious it is ore obvious than an obvious thing..

Because, almost all rocks have quite low thermal conductivity and hence why the temperature down there is as high as it is.
If they *did* have high conductivity – the heat would have all escaped by now.
Either that or the dirt would be too hot to walk on

A possible way IF this technology is so advanced, would be to drill a myriad of holes and ‘rotate’ when you use them. Leave a lot ‘fallow’ if you like to allow themselves to recharge..

Here’s the nit-pick
Temperature is NOT = Energy and even worse, temperature is not Power. (it can’t be can it)
Something the author here doesn’t seem clear about

And therein lies The Epic Fail inside Climate Science
e.g. Hurricanes are measured by their windspeed – NOT by their temperatures.
ha, that would be a joke – just visualise a weather presenter giving a hurricane warning in degrees of Celsi-heiten-far(ts)
Not even Pythonesque is it… its just crap

Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 14, 2020 1:58 pm

I don’t understand what you are saying. Geothermal works, it has been in continuous use for quite some time if favorable locations. It produces useful energy to make electricity and to heat relatively nearby structures. There are potential problems in establishing use of geothermal heat in most places: the heat is too far down to be easily got at.

However, what this article, and the ongoing research, is about is expanding the ability to get at that deeper heat. It is possible; some mines and drilling projects reach too much heat for human exposure. The question is whether there is a way to get at that heat at a cost that makes it worthwhile, not whether it is useful if one can.

There exist research that says, while use of the heat would temporarily deplete the site, the site will be recharged in a time frame that might be economical and this process could continue for a billion years or more – according to current understanding about the interior of the planet. Continuous usage could extend over decades before a rest of the site becomes necessary.

Or are you just writing about ideas to recharge the rock from above?

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  AndyHce
December 14, 2020 5:59 pm

Her point is that geothermal is a relatively diffuse source of energy. The rocks near the well can be cooled down considerably by the water pumped through. The heat from the surrounding rock is slow to flow through to where the water is. The quality of the well drops off with time. Very similar to tight gas wells – they deliver a lot of gas for a short period of time and then they fade away. There is still plenty of methane down there, but it can’t flow to the well in an economical timeframe. That’s why geothermal will only work in a few locations (like wind). Hydraulic fracturing will help but I doubt that it will make it competitive over the long term. Geothermal also has huge issues with corrosion and hard water deposits. This all costs more than coal or gas.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
December 14, 2020 2:15 pm

–Robert of Texas December 14, 2020 at 11:58 am
If you can match up the heat transfer in to the heat transfer out, then this seems like a viable approach. The problem over a long period is that you can cool the rock too fast and you lose efficiency. Of course the easy way to fix that is to just add a small natural gas burner to keep the steam at an even temperature… LOL–

I was going to bring that up. The geothermal energy can act like a battery, so one could draw an optimal amount of heat from it, but one draw less with wind mill and solar are online, and then the heat builds up {but isn’t lost- much}. So one hole and 2 {or 4} powerplants and it seems the powerplants could turned off and started fairly quickly. So with 4, and could optimal heat draw could be using 3 and could go to 1, 2, 3 or 4 {if built up enough heat and can run it for enough time]. And can be full power with 3 {while doing maintenance on 1}. Though one can do lots small holes within football fields of area at surface and with horizonal drilling a much larger area at the depth of geothermal heat source] and tying them together to feed the four or two electrical powerplants.

Reply to  gbaikie
December 14, 2020 3:14 pm

I remember reading about some mines in S. Africa that were getting so deep and so hot that they were having to limit how long people could work on a shift to avoid heat stroke.

I was wondering if you surround one of those mines with a ring of these geothermal energy plants. If they should happen to cool the rocks in the process of generating energy, that would just make mining there easier.


Reply to  MarkW
December 14, 2020 4:05 pm

At some point it would get too hot to drill. Get geothermal heat from area and then, drill deeper.

Voyage to center of Earth.

Reply to  gbaikie
December 14, 2020 4:49 pm

Haven’t looked it up to confirm, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that drill bits can handle higher temperatures than miners can.

Reply to  gbaikie
December 15, 2020 8:15 pm

“The hole reached 12,262 m (40,230 ft) in 1989. In that year, the hole depth was expected to reach 13,500 m (44,300 ft) by the end of 1990 and 15,000 m (49,000 ft) by 1993. Because of higher-than-expected temperatures at this depth and location, 180 °C (356 °F) instead of the expected 100 °C (212 °F), drilling deeper was deemed unfeasible.”
Kola Superdeep Borehole

Reply to  Robert of Texas
December 14, 2020 2:20 pm

What you describe is “hot rocks mining” where the heat source becomes exhausted over time. Fracking is supposed to be the means to extend this.

December 14, 2020 12:01 pm

Thanks for a great post. I thoroughly enjoyed it, with all the madness in the world at the moment I think that is really good news I hope it proves viable and I hope the ecoloons don’t kill it. Please keep us updated on any progress.

Mike Rossander
December 14, 2020 12:01 pm

Geothermal is a pretty great energy source and this article highlights an important way to make it more widely available.

The flaw, however, is that geothermal is not renewable. Geothermal energy is locally depleted as you extract heat and pump cooler water back down. Some of that heat is replaced from the surrounding rocks but thermal capacity and transmission put practical limits on the total energy that can be cost-effectively extracted from any given facility. Some of the early geothermal sites are already starting to have to be retired because the underground temperature is approaching “ambient”.

In short, geothermal is a depletable resource just like fossil fuels.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Mike Rossander
December 14, 2020 2:27 pm


What you say is true for the sources and technology we have now (although Iceland geothermal appears to be inexhaustable). But the question this post brings up is whether the capability that fracking brings (along with horizontal drilling) provides so much more effective area to a well that you can get a good amount of power in a long-term sustainable manner.

I don’t have the answer to that question, but I am intrigued.

Gerry, England
Reply to  Ed Bo
December 15, 2020 4:54 am

No, Iceland’s geothermal in not inexhaustable as I read an article a while back that as they increased the amount they tapped into it the output levels fell. Effectively they are cooling the earth by extracting the heat from it. Do this on a much wider scale and who knows what the outcome might be.

As the moron in charge of the UK is rushing us to a dark and cold future, the problem with heat pumps is they need electricity to run and the cost of that is rising fast due to increasing unreliable intermittent generation, global warming taxes and increased grid management costs.

Mike Rossander
Reply to  Ed Bo
December 15, 2020 10:58 am

What’s your definition of “long-term sustainable”, Ed? If you’re talking decades, yeah geothermal is pretty great. But we also still have decades of coal and oil left. If your time scale is measured in centuries or more, then geothermal is no more sustainable than fossil fuels.

Most particularly, geothermal is not “renewable” in the sense that wind and solar are. Wind and solar capture external (solar) energy that is being released regardless. Ignoring timescales in which we worry about the sun burning out, the sun is an infinite source of energy and capturing some of it does not have a material impact on the cost of capturing more of it. Geothermal, on the other hand, extracts thermal energy from the rocks immediately surrounding the underground part of the facility and the extracted heat never gets replaced. It may, like the water table near a well, get locally replenished at the expense of nearby repositories. What counts as “nearby” depends on the heat capacity and transmissivity of the local rock. Given that we can’t run taps all the way to the earth’s core, that means “nearby” is measured in hundreds of meters at most And on those scales, our experience to date shows geothermal getting locally depleted in a few decades.

Willem post
Reply to  Mike Rossander
December 15, 2020 1:53 pm

There is a lot of coal, oil and gas in the Arctic, most of which is within Russia’s control, the reason the US is undermining Russia.


If Russia needs to have a military alliance with China, it will.
All the US needs to do is not push Russia too much, to avoid such an alliance.

Russia could be a neutral swing partner of both China and the US, but neither could invade it and survive it.

Reply to  Mike Rossander
December 14, 2020 3:15 pm

It’s renewable in the sense that heat from below will eventually re-heat the rocks. The problem is that time scale is in the tens to hundreds of years.

Reply to  Mike Rossander
December 15, 2020 9:54 am

I was wondering about that. Thanks!

Bruce Cobb
December 14, 2020 12:13 pm

Sounds good so far. Certainly holds more promise than wind or solar. If it can compete on a level playing field with fossil fuels, then super.

December 14, 2020 12:19 pm

The earthquakes that will result from fracking for heat can be re-branded.
They can be called “good vibes from Gaia”.

Steve Case
December 14, 2020 12:24 pm

The greens desperately need geothermal fracking, they just don’t know it yet.

Uh no, the Greens also known as left wing politics, socialists or just plain communists really don’t want anything that works. They want Capitalism to fail, after all, years ago Maurice Strong was zipping down some highway in Alberta muttering to a freelance reporter about how the only hope for the planet is that the industrialized civilizations collapse, and isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about? Source

Here are some other quotes:

“We (UN-IPCC) redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy… One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore…” Dr. Ottmar Endenhofer IPCC November 13, 2010

“No matter if the science of global warming is all phony… climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” – Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution.” – Christiana Figueres, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary

“We’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it. George Monbiot April 12, 2019

When Joe Biden says he will ban fossil fuels in the few decades or sooner, he means it. Anyone who has witnessed the last eight plus months of Covid-19 policy should understand this. They aren’t playing bean bag.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
December 14, 2020 12:27 pm

Iceland has greenhouses growing exotic geothermal warmed crops all year round; if the Greenies ever get their heads around that idea they’ll probably label the whole idea Frankenstein food production – after all their real intent is to make everyone as miserable and unimaginative as they are.
Iceland is probably the only country in the Northern hemisphere where most people won’t be freezing to death in winters they way things are going elsewhere.

December 14, 2020 12:37 pm

I hope David’s right and that geothermal will become a viable alternative to useless wind and solar.

There was an interesting article in the Financial Post a few days ago about a company using fracking to drill geothermal wells. Also using laid off oil field workers.

Gregory Woods
December 14, 2020 12:45 pm

Why not just go for the thermal, and forget the windmills and sun panels?

4 Eyes
December 14, 2020 12:45 pm

I’ve fracced a lot of wells in hot rocks and i’ve run temperature logs in waterfloods and done heat transfer calcs on rocks. The transient heat transfer is ok but the steady state heat transfer is woeful i.e. low grade heat. We did all this in the early 80s. You need an awful lot of fracced deep wells in a field to rotate thru to enable temperature recovery in each well and a steady energy output. Fraccing isn’t cheap, nor are deep wells. A man with a spinning bowtie and dollar signs on his eyeballs managed to get rich by convincing greedy people to invest in such a hot rocks scheme nearby. It failed miserably. I tried to warn the potential investors at a pre-propectus meeting that the numbers just don’t work. The man with the silver tonsils smoothly sidestepped the issue and convinced them to put their money down. I am still working for a living, that man doesn’t have to. It all feels like windmills.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  4 Eyes
December 15, 2020 10:58 am

“Of course there are still pesky things like cost, feasibility”

As you say, like all we-get-it-for-free prospectuses, the “pesky things like cost, feasibility” go unnoticed until after the investors go broke & government subsidies run out.

Gary Pearse
December 14, 2020 12:45 pm

Direct heating would be the most efficient use in the cool half of N. America. For hot water heating in Canada 50C (120F) is very adequate. These would be relatively shallow fracking depth of less than 1500m.

A central tank near surface would circulate water with the fracked source reservoir at1500m depth and homes would have closed circuit circulation with the shallow reservoir. Airconditioning could be drawn from individual home tanks at 2-3m depth only (at Canada/N.USA latitudes). Deeper fracking for large regional steam gen electricity plant for a city may be an appropriate scale. If we are going to do geothermal we should not just do it like hydro or fossil fuel type layouts.

Flight Level
December 14, 2020 12:50 pm

Wear protective googles, exploding green radio-phobic heads ahead.

Even Wikipedia admits the radioactive origin of geothermal heat. Our earth is a gigantic cooling pond for decaying radioactive materials:

“The flow of heat from Earth’s interior to the surface is estimated at 47±2 terawatts (TW) and comes from two main sources in roughly equal amounts: the radiogenic heat produced by the radioactive decay of isotopes in the mantle and crust, and the primordial heat left over from the formation of Earth”

Reply to  Flight Level
December 15, 2020 10:26 am

Yeah, that works out to 1/3 watt per square meter…..really, really, very, very big heat exchangers required to make use of it…..on average…../s

December 14, 2020 12:53 pm

Sounds interesting, though the author is skipping over whole books worth of practical problems.

Let me know when they actually try to build one.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
December 14, 2020 2:12 pm

Yes, MarkW, geothermal is not without its environmental problems. These are mostly related to the temperature of the water and what gets dissolved in it. Corrosion and plugging of pipes in the Salton Sea area are well documented. Also, the water may contain undesirable salts such as arsenic! It has been my experience that if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. This requires much more investigation than what is provided by the article.

On the outer Barcoo
December 14, 2020 12:53 pm

The pity is that the USSR’s aborted drilling to reach the Moho on the Kola Peninsular has received much less attention than it deserved. The logging of drilling mud bubbling with hydrogen also logged a big yawn among the cognoscenti. Imagine if all the funds allocated to wind and solar energy were redirected to geothermal research. But alas, until the Moho is better understood, by sampling, endless conjecture and pontification will prevail.

December 14, 2020 12:57 pm

There are many sources of geothermal energy both big and small. The truly big ones are found on tectonic rifts where magma rises to fill the separating plates. The energy there is massive and constantly replenishes itself. In places, it is literally on the surface.

On the small personal side, a bunch of pipes buried well below the frost line and hooked up to a heat pump can both heat in the winter and cool in the summer. It can work well for suburban and rural homes. There is even a special low interest, subsidized federal loan program to offset the initial costs.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  dwg
December 14, 2020 1:50 pm

Depends on where you are. In Wisconsin, your description of a heat pump would never work in winter. The most heat you would get is the heat losses in the pump. Unless you wanted to bury the coils a km down. Rather difficult at my farm. You hit limestone bedrock about 15 feet down. The first aquifer is 60’ feet (tapped by the hand pump well. The second is about 110 feet, tapped by the submersible pump main well. The water that comes up is refreshingly cold in summer.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 14, 2020 3:23 pm

We sold lots of ground sourced heat pumps in the 80s, especially in the northern US and Canada. One of our largest customers was a greenhouse operator in UP Michigan: they grew flowers year ’round. These just use the ground as a source/sink for a water/glycol closed loop almost-traditional HVAC, freon is used for the air side. And in most cases trenching to 3′ was adequate(300 linear feet /ton of cooling) altho some areas nudged it up to 10′. Lake sand rivers were a common source as well. My office (altho in Central Texas with 70 degree earth) could double as a meat locker in August with a half-ton unit (the smallest we made). We weren’t making steam or trying to do anything more than just source/sink large HVAC systems. And doing it quite well. Here’s a more modern product, see “Split Geothermal Systems”.

Bengt Abelsson
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 15, 2020 9:40 am

I had a heat pump working in northern Swden, some 500 m plastic pipe 40 mm dia filled with water/ethanol mix 3 feet under lawn. Incoming temp -2 C outgoing temp -4.
That difference provided enough heat and warm water for 200 sqm 4 person household, outside temp wintertime down to -30 C, minimum, typical -10C december to march.

December 14, 2020 12:57 pm

Down here in Oz, we could get Tim Flannery to run it..

….. because that worked out so well last time 😉

Joel O'Bryan
December 14, 2020 1:04 pm

The problem with simplistic analyses like David Wojick does here is boiled down to one word, “cost.”

In places like Hawaii, geothermal has actual technical feasibility and thus a possibility. Indeed, even one commercial grid supplying plant. Currently, the big island, Hawaii Island purchases 38 MW of power from the Puna Geothermal Venture plant.

But Puna just recently restarted after a more than 2-year long shutdown due to infrastructure and well damage from the 2018 Kilauea eruption. Since then two new wells have been drilled and an expansion program is under way, as we reported. Before the shutdown, the geothermal plant supplied 31% of the electricity on Hawaii Island. It plans to be back to 29 MW output by the end of this month.

Note: the Wikipedia entry on the Puna Geothermal Venture is NOT up-to-date with regard to its recent return to operational status.

But even the eco-retards in Hawaii don’t like this clean source of electricity. They filed 3 lawsuits last month agains tht Puna geothermal plant venture. All that drives up the costs to everyone involved and keeps small armies of tort lawyers well supplied in personal BMWs and Mercedes.

“3 lawsuits filed by opponents of Big Island geothermal plant”

So the huge problem with geothermal is it is very expensive to operate and maintain relative to other forms of electricity generation, especially if you locate where the “geothermal action” is, i.e. active volcanic fields that can destroy wells and thus production fields. And Hawaii already has the highest retail electricity prices in the 50 states.

A widespread adoption of geothermal power, due to its inherent costs and the Green-retards fighting against anything that produces electricity, would make Hawaii even more unaffordable for a viable middle class.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
December 14, 2020 3:20 pm

I strongly suspect that there is a desire amongst many of these so called “green” leaders to make places like Hawaii to expensive for most folk, so that they are forced to leave. Thus leaving paradise to those who deem themselves more worthy.

Gordon A. Dressler
December 14, 2020 1:15 pm

In the above article, David Wojick writes: “Of course there are still pesky things like cost, feasibility . . . but the principal is clear; the technology of revolutionary thermal energy has arrived.”

Great idea . . . let’s build a future without consideration of fundamental, “pesky” things like cost and feasibility.

Hey, Bernie Sanders, AOC, California ex-governor Jerry Brown and host of other “progressives” have already fronted the idiocy of doing such.

The technology for utilizing geothermal energy for the masses has been seriously discussed by competent engineers for many DECADES, but except for a few limited exceptions (chief among these being Iceland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and the US states of Idaho, California and Hawaii), PRACTICAL use of geothermal energy has not been shown to be achievable for either power generation or “district heating”.

The introduction of “fracking” technology will not overcome all the other issues attendant with extracting geothermal energy. See for a summary of these; in particular see the section labeled “Economics”.

It would have been nice if Mr. Wojick had stated exactly what new, revolutionary technology—other than fracking—now makes possible extracting geothermal energy in quantities that are significant to world energy needs. Inquiring engineers would like to know.

BTW, Web/internet “searching the engineering and scientific literature for the last five years on the word combination ‘geothermal’ and ‘research’ yields over 100,000 technical articles. That is a lot of research.” is, prima facie, a ridiculous statement in this regard. Instead, one would like to know the number of such articles that concluded the current technology and site availability was feasible versus those that either concluded it was infeasible or that reached no conclusion at all . . . shades of John Cook’s 97% AGW consensus “research”, no less!

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
December 14, 2020 1:51 pm

If it were widespread achievable at reasonable costs, we’d already been doing it. And we’d be doing it without government subsidy if it were economically viable and the innovations in the technology would follow any viable approach.. That how capitalism works. That we haven’t is prima facie evidence that geothermal power potential is quite limited in most of the US.

They have in Iceland where the geothermal potential is relatively close to the surface, and their only other viable energy choice are the importation of oil and natural gas from Norway’s and the UK’s North Sea production fields.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
December 14, 2020 3:40 pm

Over 70% of Iceland’s total electric generation is from hydro, and most of that goes to aluminum smelters.

The per-capita electric consumption in Iceland is 7 times the EU average, but the population is quite small and industrial uses account for most of what is generated.

The Alcoa facility at Fjarðaál is the second largest in their system, and it consumes the entire output of the hydro dam built for it.

There are at least three aluminum smelters in Iceland; I think they all rely on hydro.

December 14, 2020 1:17 pm

This looks like it will produce inexhaustible cheap energy. The Left will never accept it, cheap energy is the lifeblood of Capitalism.

If this tech produced expensive energy which had the potential to hobble Capitalism, then it would be hailed as a breakthrough by the greenie Left.

The goal of the Left is not about saving the planet, it’s about stopping Captialism.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Klem
December 14, 2020 5:48 pm

The goal of the Left is Power. Unchecked political and economic power over all aspects of a society. Nothing more, because there is nothing more than controlling and owning everything and acting with impunity.

Capitalism is an economic enterprise of freeing the individual to be an entrepreneur with the incentive to and keep/retain a substantial part of the profits of his/her venture for personal and family use.
Because capitalism is a bottom-up, grass roots enabled economic system it is the antithesis to top-down authoritarians socialist command economy and their seizure of private property. China is trying to find a hybrid of the two. But make no mistake, in communist China the billionaire entrepreneurs cannot cross the CCP or else they face getting disappeared and assets taken, economic freedom there is an illusion.

December 14, 2020 1:18 pm

I was an early investor in ORMAT, which I think is the largest publicly traded company focused on geothermal power. They had issues early on as heat didn’t regenerate as fast as expected. I really like the idea and hope that technology can be perfected.

Changing gears, I just don’t get how geothermic heat plays no role in earth’s energy budget. I grew up caving in WVA and you don’t go far down before temps are a steady 50-55 degrees. This heet has to proven heat to the surface. I just don’t get the trivial numbers assigned to geothermic. Subsea volcanoes have to provide some non trivial amount to the ocean heat content.

Reply to  Nelson
December 14, 2020 3:22 pm

It does. The problem the amount of geothermal energy is about 3 orders of magnitude less than what the sun is providing. Geothermal doesn’t even make it to the level of rounding error.

Reply to  MarkW
December 15, 2020 9:38 am

The amount od geothermal equals what the sun and the space are providing. I assume steady state, od course. Geothermal, however small, needs to be transferred through the atmoshere and further to space. Net energy/heat balance at outer boundary must equal the amount od geothermal.

Reply to  Edim
December 15, 2020 3:46 pm

“The amount od geothermal equals what the sun and the space are providing”
Off by over three orders of magnitude
238 W/square meter of sunlight
Geothermal is between .071 and .105 W/square meter depending on whether you are continental or oceanic crust.

“Geothermal, however small, needs to be transferred through the atmoshere and further to space.”


“Net energy/heat balance at outer boundary must equal the amount od geothermal.”

As near as I can figure out, you are claiming that at top of atmosphere, if you take all the heat that is leaving the earth, and subtract from that heat, the heat that the sun provides, what is left is geo-thermal heat.

Well duh.

Reply to  Nelson
December 14, 2020 3:23 pm

PS: The temperature a few feet down has more to do with averaging the yearly air temperatures than it does with heat coming from below.

December 14, 2020 1:22 pm

We can’t have geothermal because it can’t be monopolized, can’t be rationed, can’t be controlled only by energy companies.
It would cause a massive shift in revenue.

Rud Istvan
December 14, 2020 1:28 pm

Interesting proposition. BUT I see at least two significant BIG problems.

1. The geothermal gradient. Most places not sitting on a volcano or equivalent (Yellowstone, Iceland) the gradient is 20-30C/km (depends on the rocks). Say 25C/km on average to access 400C. The well has to be ~16 km deep. The deepest fracking in the world is the Utica shale underneath the Marcellus. The parts fracked to date are under 2 km down. The parts nobody has tried yet (overlying shallower Marcellus is easier) average about 3.3km. Fracking requires hydraulic pressure greater than the rock ‘cohesion’ to induce fracturing That minimum hydraulic pressure obviously increases with depth.

Plus, shale is definitionally stratified from its marine deposition, and therefore ‘friable’ aka fairly soft and crumbly. At 16km, one is in basement hard rock (basalt, granite), much tougher and less ‘friable’. Dunno that the requisite hydraulic pressure could ever be achieved at requisite bulk scale.

2. The big present problem in geothermal e.g. in California and Iceland) has always been corrosion (the well pipe) and scaling (the heat exchanger from the geothermal brine to the necessarily very pure turbine driving steam/water), since deep waters are always briny. Fracking does not solve that known problem.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 14, 2020 5:08 pm

Rud: “Fracking requires hydraulic pressure greater than the rock ‘cohesion’ to induce fracturing That minimum hydraulic pressure obviously increases with depth.”

Rule of thumb (in absence of tectonic pressures) is pressure for fracking is 80% of lithostatic (overhead) pressure because of the fluid pressure in tiny voids which contain the oil or gas in the shale.

Regarding depths, the 2 -3km ‘limit’ is for use of sized, rounded pure quartz sand to serve as ‘proppants’ in the fractures created in the shale. With greater depth, the crushing strength of the sand grains is exceeded. The sand is mixed with the frack fluid so that it lodges in the opened fractures holding them open for exit of the hydrocarbons.

For deeper plays, you have to use manufactured high strength ceramic “sand”. These are generally aluminosilicate based. A US based manufacturer (Carbo Ceramics?) offered a product suitable for the ~ 20,000ft Deep Horizon in the G of Mexico a few years ago. I researched and wrote a multi-client technical and economic study on the industry 5yrs ago as a contractor.

December 14, 2020 1:30 pm

Geothermal works in New Zealand. It produces about 17% of electricity generated. Some bores have restricted offtakes to allow them to replenish. Geothermal base load output allows for less reliance on gas and coal based generation.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  DG
December 14, 2020 5:35 pm

South Island??? North Island? Both?
Then why do they need all those wind prayer wheels?

Gord in Calgary
December 14, 2020 1:45 pm

Tapping geothermal for heat is reasonable and can be cost-effective for home heating using closed-loop systems. Trying to use deep geothermal hot water for generating electricity is a nightmare of corrosion and calcification. Geothermal water is laden with corrosive salts, minerals and gases in equilibrium. When you tap these reservoirs and bring the hot water to the surface, the minerals and gases are released as the pressure and temperature drops. Good projects for using up government grant money, bad for generating electricity economically.

Reply to  Gord in Calgary
December 14, 2020 3:26 pm

Geo-thermal for heating your house is a misnomer.
At the depths reached for such systems, the ground temperature is controlled by the yearly average of the air temperature, plus heating from the sun.
The contribution from true geo-thermal heat is too small to measure.

December 14, 2020 1:49 pm

If this new geothermal technology provides cheap energy, the greens will hate that too. The only that will make them happy is everybody is poor, except themselves, and living in a communist utopia. The greens hate people more than they love the earth.

December 14, 2020 1:52 pm

Unfortunately, getting to the depth in non-volcanic areas really aren’t that feasible. Plus the high heat destroys the drilling equipment. The Russians had an advantage in that they were just drilling straight down. They didn’t really care where they were. If you’re drilling for reliable heat sources, you’re going to care and at those depths, the MWD tools are going to die. They can do some high temps, but not the ones that make Geothermal viable. It’s also very hard on all the pipe and other equipment. After 10 years in the oilfield, I’d say this isn’t really doable right now with current tech.

Gary Wescom
December 14, 2020 2:00 pm

Another point to ponder is the quality of the steam and water from fracked wells. It contains minerals and volatiles, some quite acidic. Maintenance can be relatively high dealing with steam rotor and valve corrosion and pipe mineral deposits.

Reply to  Gary Wescom
December 14, 2020 3:29 pm

I would imagine the water from the well wouldn’t be directly flashed to steam, but would instead be used to heat surface water.
There would still be problems with the pipes that carry the deep water, but at least the turbine would be protected.

Planning Engineer
December 14, 2020 2:05 pm

I was in California in the late 80s and the utilities made strong efforts to tap geothermal resources. It was available and reachable in areas. The problem was it was not suitable for continuous long term energy production due to the corrosiveness of the underground environment. Maybe there are better materials available today, but until I hear that has been addressed I will be skeptical.

December 14, 2020 2:09 pm

The drilling around Yellowstone can’t begin too soon.

December 14, 2020 2:17 pm
John Pickens
December 14, 2020 2:18 pm

If the money already spent and subsidized for wind and solar were instead invested in conventional ground-loop geothermal electric heating and cooling, we would have saved amazing amounts of power. In the US, ground loop geothermal saves 25 to 45 percent of the energy expended for space heating and cooling. This is a demonstrated performance, works 24/7, and doesn’t require huge energy investments to produce, unlike wind and solar.

Reply to  John Pickens
December 15, 2020 1:38 am

As some of us keep explaining, ground loop is stored solar, not geothermal.

December 14, 2020 2:19 pm

They tried new Geothermal using fracking in Australia and elsewhere.
Broken drill heads, casing failures, accidents, toxic minerals, uneconomic (requires high carbon tax & green incentives), bankruptcies. So it’s a bit hit&miss.

New Zealand has some good geothermal power generation because it has some volcanic activity close to the surface but is better behaved (consistent without the big eruptions & movement). YMMV

Reply to  tygrus
December 14, 2020 2:39 pm

“The reservoirs can also contain traces of toxic heavy metals including mercury, arsenic, and boron. That said, the pollution associated with geothermal power is very low, and just a tiny fraction of what we see with coal power and fossil fuels.”

Drilling down to the reasons behind geothermal’s failure

Geodynamics changes focus to solar, storage and hybrid energy

Dutch geothermal sector calls for clearer conditions and better support

Bruce of Newcastle
December 14, 2020 2:33 pm

Geothermal is like wave energy. Seems obvious on paper until you get into the fiddly bits of actual engineering. Whereupon it becomes too expensive even with massive taxpayer subsidies.

Our infamous climate moaner Dr Tim Flannery used to spruik hot rock geothermal. Hundreds of millions were sunk into it only for the whole thing to collapse in embarrassing failure.

Another Flannery fail: geothermal project scrapped (2016)

In practice geothermal is like any other energy source. The more concentrated it is the more economic. So geothermal projects in Iceland and New Zealand work because they sit on top of magma chambers. The rock temperature is so hot that only a few wells are required and the steam quality is high. Of course if the supposedly dormant volcano erupts you have done your dosh even more spectacularly than Flannery did with his hot rocks project.

Reply to  Bruce of Newcastle
December 14, 2020 3:02 pm

When they finally settle people in Antarctica due to “gerbil worming”..

…. they will be able to access geothermal down there, as well. 🙂

December 14, 2020 3:14 pm

As I understand it, the failure of the South Australia geothermal project was not the heat source but the difficulty of extracting steam at consistent pressure from the wells. Essentially the wells leaked because of naturally occurring fissures in the rocks between the hot source and the surface. It seems likely to me that geothermal will only work if the source of the heat is relatively close to the surface as in geyser regions such as in NZ and Yosemite Park in California. This reduces the possibility of steam loss into the surrounding rocks and may allow lining of the well to further enhance reliable steam production. Where the heat source is deep within the ground, it may not be possible to line the full extent of the well and thus the failures observed.

Triff ..
December 14, 2020 4:27 pm

Why don’t we experiment with old deep capped dry wells from the oil and gas industry ..
The dry wells would be in non hydrocarbon bearing deosits by definition ..
Some of the more recent ones may have been fracked ..
There are thousands of these wells around the country ..

Reply to  Triff ..
December 15, 2020 3:49 pm

If the rocks were hot enough to make geothermal energy attractive, there would have been no hydrocarbons to drill for in the first place.

Kevin kilty
December 14, 2020 6:08 pm

I suppose if one can find a source of very hot rock at a shallow depth, and or mine the heat stored in the rock, you can run a reasonable plant like Beowawe, Nevada. But this occurs in very few places. If you are planning to make this work anywhere, like a CCNG or Coal plant can be placed anywhere, then you are faced with the fact that 400C rock is extremely deep — way beyond drilling technology — and the power density is about 60mW per square meter. That’s milliWatts per square meter, folks.

December 14, 2020 6:31 pm

Iceland is an island of fire from volcanos and ice from glacier. Their hydroelectric generation is from glacial runoff and their heating is volcanic geothermal. They use little to no oil or wind. More power to them…pun intended.

December 14, 2020 7:50 pm

Would love if you read the geothermal section of the FREE book that has been available for some time. If you like that section you will probably love the rest of the book. Invaluable when you have these discussion who are not up on the science. The books name is: Sustainable Energy – without the hot air by David JC MacKay. He sells it on Amazon for $151 for the hardback, or he freely allows you to read it online. Google it to go to withoutthehotair dot com. Chapter 16 explains geothermal limitations, based on the science. As was said before, low energy value in most places, better if you sit on a continental fault line, or a volcano. Geothermal heat pumps would save lots of electricity most anyplace, though.

December 14, 2020 9:12 pm

As others have explained here you just do not understand the nature of the Green. I suggest you go look for something that actually works that they approve of. I have asked this before never is there an answer. Most of us would applaud this new energy source geothermal but it will be a nightmare as far as they are concerned and they will actively fight to prevent it. Because of the acquiescence of large numbers of fools they get away with it.

I have given up long ago the idea that this is about emissions and the temperature of the planet it’s not. What they do is driven by the fact they hate capitalism and everything they do diminishes it. They are not content with just affecting energy they wish to damage if and eliminate our civilisation. These are tools to achieve their aims not real in fact. I suggest look at the rise in CO2 then look at the changes in temperature that we have, do you see any correlation. I don’t. Look at the large effort that has been put in to diminishing the Western world’s emissions and go back and look at the data again do you see any change? 30% of the world’s emissions is China but when did you last hear and environmentalist concerned about that?

December 14, 2020 9:28 pm

The main problem with geothermal is that the water gets loaded up with corrosive and precipitating chemicals. These can cause scale, corrosion, or both. This occurs in the plant, as well as the casing of the well itself. These problems with the water have proven an insurmountable obstacle for many geothermal plants, and I see nothing in fracking that will alleviate that problem.


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
December 15, 2020 6:18 am

Thank you Mr. Eschenbach. I looked thru most of these comments for someone to mention what is indeed the “main problem” with these projects. Ask anyone in the Cal oil field service biz who has ever worked on or tried to log these wells, and they will tell you that they would much rather even work on steam injection (also awful work) than in geo fields.

The people of the world are already facing well into 13 figures of shirked oil and gas field asset retirement obligations, accrued for over a century We don’t need even more from geothermal pumper dumpers who will unload their trash cans of corroded/eroded wellbores and yards full of NORM laden tubulars onto the rest of us.

Chris Hogg
December 14, 2020 9:58 pm

There was a geothermal energy project in the UK, following the 1973 oil crisis. It was based in a granite quarry in Cornwall, chosen because the geothermal heat flow there, at 120mW/m^2, was the highest in England. They drilled three wells to approximately 2.5km and fractured the rock between by hydraulic pressure to allow cold water to be circulated and recover the heat. But the water recovered was not hot enough to drive a steam turbine, and it would have required drilling at least a further 1km to achieve that objective. The project ran from 1977 to 1980, although studies continued at the site for a further elven years.

Phil Salmon
December 14, 2020 10:41 pm

Another energy technology revolution?
How many is that this week already?

Neil Jones
December 15, 2020 12:08 am

So, let me get this right.

We are going to take heat which is currently safely stored underground and release it into the atmosphere of the planet to cool it down.

Bill Rocks
December 15, 2020 10:41 am

“Now all of this has suddenly changed. With hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) we can make these geothermal reservoirs where we want them, the size we want them, and where the heat is the temperature we want, especially very hot. This includes the so-called “supercritical” water at 400 degrees C, which is now used in the most advanced power-plants.”

The above quote by Dr. Wojick is a statement of hopeful optimism but, not, to my knowledge based upon a hydraulic fracturing breakthrough. We have been able to “frac” deep brittle rocks for a long time, given the right situation. That has not been the sole or main limitation to high temperature geothermal energy development, rather there are many physical and economic challenges as mentioned by other writers, above. Regardless, I do thank the author for writing about his opinion because continuing targeted research is worthy, IMHO and many significant developments in “fracing” have been made during the past 25 years, especially.

If I am incorrect and out of date, please inform me of the breakthrough operating geothermal projects.

Michael Keal
December 15, 2020 3:42 pm

While it’s become clear from reading the interesting article above that geothermally derived energy is right up there with wind and solar because it’s totally useless at producing cheap reliable electricity but sounds plausible enough to people who didn’t study engineering, the fact is that the problem they’re trying to solve has been solved already.
That the problem HAS been solved is most manifest in communist China where they’ve totally proved that, building stonking great big, beautiful coal power stations hand over fist that loft copious quantities of brand new clean plant-enriching carbon dioxide heavenwards not only gives them an abundance of clean cheap reliable electricity but more importantly, does NOT cause global warming.
Because if it did Al Gore would have moved to Canada by now.
It also means there’s more than enough money around to pay politicians in democracies to NOT understand this.

December 16, 2020 10:02 am

Geothermal; another soon to be ‘stranded asset’ in the portfolio of energy ‘extraction’ means and/or devices …

It doesn't add up...
December 17, 2020 3:56 am

Here’s a record of the recent seismic events at Caharrack in Cornwall, where they are fracking for a geothermal project

Fracking for gas was halted by events of over 0.5 ML. Geothermal us licensed in the UK to proceed at up to ML 4. No protest camps either.

Let’s say I am a little sceptical of the economics of using geothermal for storage and backup generation. The round trip efficiency is likely to be very poor. And the locations with suitable geology are surely very limited.

Hunter Paalman
December 17, 2020 12:47 pm

I was doing Geothermal Energy Research fifty years ago. The short comment on this proposed revolution is that this was done long ago by DOE as their Hot Rock GE Project. Frac with a nuc or whatever to create a huge heat exchanger way down under. Great but impractical idea that soon runs into heat transfer limitations as cited by others here.

Good GE situations involve porous, wet reservoirs over a hot spot that behave like a tea kettle, venting steam of adequate temperature to generate power and with required water recharge for continuity. Such sites are The Geysers, CA; Lardarello, IT; and maybe still Matsasuko (sp?) JP.

Deep hot water sites also exist, typically the Imperial Valley, CA and Cerro Prieto, MEX. Both of these developments lie astride/near the East Pacific Rise spreading center from the top of the Gulf of CA to the Salton Sea, CA. Most operations bring up a flashing mixed flow of steam and supersaturated brine, rejecting the brine and solids while using the steam for power. New Zealand has a similar resource.

Once again what goes around comes around in the case of the hot earth core and fracking to tickle out economic heat for power production. Working GE systems continue to struggle close to the margins.

December 17, 2020 2:52 pm

Your referenced reservoirs were more shallow, and naturally fractured. Counterintuitively, that made them poor fracture stimulation candidates. Apparently, experimental work has been done in deeper geothermal reservoirs to add fracture perm with fracture stimulation, but I don’t know of any commercial, or even pilot endeavors. The only method of even qualitatively looking for the changes was with Ground Penetrating Radar. No a complete lit search, so you may know more.

All moot for mundane operational reasons. Wife and I love to rent hot springs heated hot tubs above Avila beach, drink adult bev’s, watch the sun set or the stars. Geo heat quite good for that…

December 17, 2020 10:52 pm

With hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) we can make these geothermal reservoirs where we want them, the size we want them, and where the heat is the temperature we want, especially very hot.

Anywhere? Some places must be better than others. How deep (expensive)? Is there a closed loop of a fluid?

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