Guest “My sincere apologies to whoever (or is it whomever?) originally coined the phrase, If wishes were horses,” by David Middleton
[I]f the Texas drilling industry drilled as many geothermal wells as it currently does oil and gas, about 15,000 per year, the state could run itself off geothermal power by 2027.Saul Elbein, Sustainability Reporter The Hill
- If the “Texas drilling industry” drilled as many CCS wells “as it currently does oil and gas wells,” the state could sequester more CO2 than is emitted from all fixed emission sources, nationwide.
- If the “Texas drilling industry” drilled as many deep disposal wells into crystalline basement rock “as it currently does oil and gas wells,” the state could safely dispose of every last bit of high level radioactive waste in these United States.
- If wishes were horses, we’d all get ponies for Christmas.
Firstly, “Texas” doesn’t have a “drilling industry.” Secondly, if the drilling industry that currently drills oil & gas wells in Texas could make more money drilling geothermal wells than drilling oil & gas wells, we would be drilling geothermal wells rather than oil & gas wells.
Here are some “highlights” from the article:
EQUILIBRIUM & SUSTAINABILITY
Geothermal energy could be off-ramp for Texas oil
BY SAUL ELBEIN 01/24/23
AUSTIN, Texas — Four years of drilling for energy deep underground would be enough to build Texas a carbon-free state electric grid, a new study by an alliance of state universities has found.
The state’s flagship universities — including the University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Texas A&M University — collaborated with the International Energy Agency to produce the landmark report.
“Rock is a great heat battery, and the upper 10 miles of the core holds an estimated 1,000 years’ worth of our energy needs in the form of stored energy,” Wisan added.
Most of the state’s population lives above potentially usable geothermal heat — as long as there’s a will to drill deep enough.
Superheated trapped steam that is nearly 300 degrees Fahrenheit — the sweet spot for modern geothermal — is accessible about three to five miles below the state capital of Austin and 2 1/2 to 3 miles beneath its most prominent city of Houston, the report found.
According to the Energy Information Agency, the state’s substantial renewable potential is meeting part of this growth: Texas leads the nation in wind energy and has near-leading solar potential.
But the Republican-dominated legislature…
The International Energy Agency declared in May 2021 that for the world to meet global climate goals, new oil and gas production would have to cease, as The Hill reported.
Since that warning, global oil and gas production has continued to increase — and is on track to hit record levels in 2023. But Tuesday’s report, which the global energy watchdog helped produce, suggested that geothermal energy could be a politically palatable offramp for the industry.
The report found that if the Texas drilling industry drilled as many geothermal wells as it currently does oil and gas, about 15,000 per year, the state could run itself off geothermal power by 2027.
[E]ventually, the fossil fuel industry began to drill and advance. “And then sure enough, now we’re drilling in 5,000 feet of water offshore with billion-dollar, technically complex wells,” Beard said.
“And that is what we could do for geothermal, right?” she said. “We could go for the deepwater of geothermal, and we can do it in the next few decades.”The Hill
The “landmark report” can be downloaded from the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute. I downloaded the report. It’s not awful. The sections on the geology are actually quite well done.
I have nothing against geothermal energy, where an economic resource exists.
This sort of thinking doesn’t reflect economics:
Superheated trapped steam that is nearly 300 degrees Fahrenheit — the sweet spot for modern geothermal — is accessible about three to five miles below the state capital of Austin and 2 1/2 to 3 miles beneath its most prominent city of Houston, the report found.The Hill
Three to five miles beneath Austin? That’s 15,840 to 26,400 feet. There haven’t been a lot of oil & gas wells drilled in Travis County and I don’t think any have been drilled in Austin city limits. Considering that the average depth of wells drilled in Travis County is only about 800 feet, I’m fairly certain that none of them were drilled to depths of 15,840 to 26,400 feet. And I’m fairly certain that no wells will ever be drilled that deep under the city of Austin.
Austin is at the southeast end of this cross section. Paleozoic basement rock is less than 2,000′ below the surface.
That sort of “thinking” would conclude that the Kola Superdeep Borehole was a good start… Although, the idea of converting coal-fired power plants into geothermal power plants, connected to Superdeep boreholes, drilled by Doctor Evil “laser” beams, is a pretty cool idea, from a bad science fiction movie perspective.
Radical Plan To Make Earth’s Deepest Hole Could Unleash Limitless Energy
09 March 2022
By MIKE MCRAE
Since its launch in 2020, a pioneering energy company called Quaise has attracted some serious attention for its audacious goal of diving further into Earth’s crust than anybody has dug before.
Following the closure of first round venture capital funding, the MIT spin-off has now raised a total of US$63 million: a respectable start that could potentially make geothermal power accessible to more populations around the world.
The company’s vision for getting closer to the center of the Earth is to combine conventional drilling methods with a megawatt-power flashlight inspired by the kind of technology that could one day make nuclear fusion energy possible.
To date our best efforts at chewing our way through the planet’s skin have bottomed out at around 12.3 kilometers (7.6 miles). While the Kola Superdeep Borehole and others like it may have reached their limit, though, they nonetheless represent amazing feats of engineering.
Born out of nuclear fusion research at MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Quaise’s solution is to use millimeter long waves of electromagnetic radiation that force atoms to melt together.
Devices called gyrotrons can efficiently churn out continuous beams of electromagnetic radiation by shaking electrons at high speed inside powerful magnetic fields.
By hooking a megawatt-power gyrotron up to the latest in cutting tools, Quaise expects to be able to blaze its way through the toughest, hottest rock, down to depths of around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in a matter of months.
By 2028, the company hopes to be able to take over old coal-fueled power stations, transforming them into facilities powered by steam instead.
$63 million and just the right attitude:
A truly equitable clean energy source, abundantly available near every population and industrial center on the planet.Quaise
How we got here
Carlos Araque spent fifteen years working at one of the world’s foremost providers of drilling services to the oil and gas industry. Seeing the negative impacts of that industry firsthand made him want to do something to help make things better. Quaise’s deep drilling technology is the result of a decade of research conducted by Paul Woskov at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center.
Aaron Mandell knew both Paul and Carlos and put them all at the table together. Once the first conversation started everyone knew it was a once-in-a-generation idea. Vinod Khosla was the first backer, bringing our ideas to life. Two years later, The Engine, a venture fund built by MIT, led the seed round to help take our technology to market.Quaise
According to their timeline, by 2024, they’ll have built the “first full-scale hybrid drilling rig combining conventional rotary drilling and millimeter wave drilling capabilities.” By 2028, they will have drilled enough super-deep wells to convert a coal-fired power plant to “equitable” geothermal power. Good luck with that! The company seems to be an MIT project, largely funded by MIT. Has MIT ever drilled a well? Anywhere?
McMoRan’s 29,000′ Davy Jones well took nearly five years to reach its objective.
The first Davy Jones well has to be most expensive well ever drilled. McMoRan says its “investment in drilling, completion and other costs specifically attributable to Davy Jones No. 1 approximated $339.4 million as of March 31, 2013” and that its total investment in the Davy Jones complex, “which includes $474.8 million in allocated property acquisition costs, totaled approximately $1.0 billion at March 31, 2013.”Forbes, 2013
The Davy Jones well was actually drilled in shallow water (~20′). The well found exactly the sort of pressure and temperature conditions that the geothermal pioneers are looking for. They might have even found a significant volume of very dry natural gas. It was never produced because they couldn’t get the well to flow, despite very high reservoir pressures. The extremely heavy drilling mud required for those conditions solidified into solid rock (more or less).
But McMoRan has run into trouble completing the first Davy Jones well. In short, the bottom of the wellbore, which at 30,000 feet deep is no bigger than your fist, got all gummed up with heavy drilling mud that McMoRan had to pump down to control the well’s massive pressures. The gunk solidified and has stymied McMoRan’s efforts to complete the well and test its flow.Forbes, 2013
While using their Doctor Evil “laser” to vaporize rock, will solve the problem of circulating the well cuttings up to the surface, it’s probably not going to contain the pressures. It will also make mud logging rather impossible and I don’t think logging while drilling tools will work very well either, without drilling mud, and with a Doctor Evil “laser” at the end of the drill string.
There’s no doubt that there is a huge technical geothermal resource under Texas. Is any of it economically recoverable? Probably.
Oil & gas companies generally do look for other ways to make money. Many, if not most, oil & gas companies are actively evaluating the possibility of making money drilling CCS wells. However, this won’t be a “transition” away from oil & gas any more than the catalytic converter was a transition away from internal combustion engines. The industry would love to turn a profit by drilling for over-pressured, super-heated brine. Such a resource is actually relatively easy to find. The industry has actually developed methods of drilling, evaluating, completing and producing high pressure, high heat (HPHH) wells (shut in pressures greater than 15,000 psi and flowing surface temperatures greater than 350°F). There are prolific dry natural gas reservoirs in HPHH environments, like the Norphlet formation in Mobile Bay. However, the industry is not going to suddenly switch from drilling oil & gas wells to drilling geothermal wells.
The report does a good job covering the geology and engineering, along with the legal and regulatory hurdles. It goes off the track when if gets into climate propaganda and academic cheerleading and at times becomes self-contradictory:
We Don’t Need a Sexy Moonshot. We Need Fast, Incremental Steps:The Future of Geothermal in Texas, page 352
In 100 years of small steps, the oil and gas industry has progressed from mining oil from pools on the surface of the Earth, to deep and ultra-deepwater oil and gas exploration. The incrementality, and indeed necessity of the steps in between these two should not be overlooked. To make the jump from land-based drilling to offshore drilling, just as an example, drillers started by building wooden platforms in ten feet (three meters) of water, and caught rides with shrimping boats out to their rigs in the morning. Now, decades later, industry drills the most technically complex wells in the world with price tags in the billions, from offshore rigs the size of small cities, in 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) of water…
While deepwater wells are expensive to drill and semi-submersible rigs & drillships are huge, I don’t know of any individual wells “with price tags in the billions” or “offshore rigs the size of small cities”… at least not in the Gulf of Mexico. Although, the Davy Jones disaster may have cost over $1 billion.
However the pertinent point is that it took us over a century to go from drilling relatively shallow onshore wells, based on surface geology, where gushers were good things, to drilling wells based on advanced 3d seismic surveys in >5,000′ water depths, to objectives at >20,000′ depths, where gushers were environmental catastrophes. No amount of Silicon Valley lingo cheerleading could have sped up that process.
Disruptors Gonna Disrupt:The Future of Geothermal in Texas, page 353
Startups are leading the way with big, bold ideas, and new innovators are entering the space faster than we could incorporate them into this Report. Disruption results in step-changes, which geothermal desperately needs. So charge forward, lead the way, and forget business as
While a lot of the technology that was developed during the oil industry’s growth from the 1800’s to the 2020’s will be applicable to the exploitation of geothermal resources and many oil & gas companies are evaluating the geothermal resource potential in their areas of operation, a combination of climate hysteria-driven activism and government intervention won’t lead to this:
An ‘Apollo’ Style Mobilization of Stakeholders Could Drive Sufficient Global Scale for Geothermal to Supply a Majority of Global Demand for Electricity and Heat by 2050:
If we follow the roadmap of the greatest human achievements in our approach to collaboration and cooperation across industries, disciplines, and even party lines, we can achieve or even exceed global decarbonization goals with geothermal by 2050.The Future of Geothermal in Texas, page 354
So let’s go.
In two pages they went from “We Don’t Need a Sexy Moonshot” to “An ‘Apollo’ Style Mobilization of Stakeholders…”
If they skipped the “Disruptors Gonna Disrupt” cheerleading, they would have produced a very solid report. Buy, hey… It’s a lot better than this:
If wishes were horses… A classic!
Beard et al, 2023. The Future of Geothermal in Texas: The Coming Century of Growth & Prosperity in the Lone Star State. The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute.
Hunt, B.B., Cockrell, L.P., Gary, R.H., Vay, J.M., Kennedy, V., Smith, B.A., and Camp, J.P., 2020, Hydrogeologic Atlas of Southwest Travis County, Central Texas: Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District Report of Investigations 2020-0429, April 2020, 80 p. + digital datasets.
But the oceans are boiling. No wonder.
It appears you aren’t giving up on the Richard Feynman’s teacup energy, are you?
I don’t really understand it, tea, I’m more of a coffee thermos guy.
Using quantum mechanics equations physicists Richard Feynman and John Wheeler calculated the zero-point radiation of the vacuum to be an order of magnitude greater than nuclear energy, with a teacup (light bulb or m^3, depending who is quoted) contains enough energy to boil all the world’s oceans.
They were some 120 (?) magnitudes wrong, despite fact that the same equations do sterling job in other applications.
Speaking of boiling:
“Superheated trapped steam that is nearly 300 degrees Fahrenheit — the sweet spot for modern geothermal …”
How’s a measly 300F a sweet spot when the 300C – C! – is the minimum for a 30% efficient nuclear plant, and 400C+ is much better – 40-50% efficient in supercritical plants?
And the 300F they are talking about is a few miles below, not at the surface going into a steam generator next to a turbine.
I think they are fleecing the venture capitalists and angel investors who think they are going to save the world and get rich too.
Yes, the idea that 300F would be some sort of “sweet spot” for generating electricity seems insane, for the reason you mention (i.e. that the conversion efficiency would be way too low).
But at the same time, it doesn’t seem right to me that air source heat pumps and air conditioners are so prevalent. Take Austin, TX, for example. Average low in January and February is about 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Average high in July and August is about 96 degrees Fahrenheit. But we’re trying to use heat pumps to remove heat from that 42 degree air in winter, and using air conditioners to discharge heat to the 96 degree air in summer. Yet the ground and the water in it…or even above it…are about 60-70 degrees throughout the year.
Oops! I should have actually read the report. The “sweet spot” of 300 F is not really “insane.” The conversion efficiency would be low, but that really doesn’t matter if one has enough free heat as the source. The turbines that use the 300 F temperature are binary turbines.
A better song titled “If Wishes Were Horses”
I guess you never saw Jon Butcher in concert.
So where are Blackrock and Bill Gates when somebody wants to finance a (supposed) solution?
The lack of answer tells you all you need to know. If these nouveau drilling techniques worked well enough, the oil industry would all over it like a tramp on chips.
Now that has to be an outright fabrication, falsehood, prevarication, lie…we all know the Oil Pundits on this site have proselytized that we’ve already reached Peak oil and are on the downslope side. That say that is why oil prices are so high…
I don’t recall any “Oil Pundits on this site” proselytizing any such thing. While “peak oil” is a real thing… It’s a really irrelevant thing and we won’t know that we’ve passed it until it’s far back in the rearview mirror.
Did you forget about Duane and Griff et.al.
Looks like it needed a /sarc tag
I have this one…
I thought you wrote “Oil Pundits”… You must have meant “Oil Idiots”… 😉
Was “The Oil Drum” website circa 2008 real?
Yep. And many of the authors were very knowledgeable oil industry people.
True but sad. Most of what they posted was malarkey. Peak Oil alarmists were, like today’s climate alarmists, immune to facts or logic.
I suspect many of them have become climate alarmists. If true, that tells us something about them.
No, Conventional oil and gas have peaked, but unconvcentional has some time to go.
It’s all the same thing from a Peak Oil perspective.
Hubbard didn’t even consider offshore oil when he made his famous graph.
Peak Oil will occur approximately when we have consumed about half of the oil we will ever consume… And no one will notice until we are well past that point.
He was speaking to ‘conventional’ oil, with horizontal drilling not having been invented yet. Strictly speaking, ‘conventional’ oil — or the state of drilling technology during his tenure (1956) — has peaked, and we are relying on the same resource but a different technology to obtain it than was used in the days of Spindle Top.
I see Hubbards predictions not as something that was carved (or drilled) in stone, but, rather, a warning that without advances in technology, society would be in trouble.
Personally, I prefer someone basing their predictions on the extant technology, rather than speculations on what might be invented in the future, such as is common with nuclear fusion promoters.
Peak Oil is really a function of geology, reservoir mechanics, economics, government interference and probably quite a few other factors, including imagination.
Prior to the early 1990’s, no one realized that economic quantities of oil & gas could be produced from the source rocks with frac’ing and lateral completions. I have no doubt that we haven’t finished imagining how we might squeeze more oil & gas out of the earth.
Peak Oil is not really something that can be calculated in advance.
Unfortunately, Putin and the Chinese will be doing most of the development work backed up with missile threats against any leader that opposes them. That’s in addition to their ground gains on the surface.
The relationship of mineral demand, prices, remaining ore quality, and technology was known to mining experts in the 1970s – but forgotten by peak oil zealots. It is described in this book by one of the greats of that era…
Copper: the anatomy of an industrySir Ronald Prain (1975).
Excerpt of relevant text:
Thanks for another well-informed report, Mr. Middleton.
The report does a good job covering the geology and engineering, along with the legal and regulatory hurdles. It goes off the track when if gets into climate propaganda …
Reminded me of one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite quips:
“‘There’s gotta be a pony in there somewhere!'”
(and somewhere in that propaganda was some good information)
One of my favorite sayings! I’ve spent a good part of the past 30 years digging ponies (new discoveries) out of piles of horse schist (old oil & gas fields)… There’s got to be a pony in there somewhere… 😉
You’ll find the pony.
(Then they’ll complain about the extra horse schist!) 😎
This is great. We miss him.
Indeed, we do. (thanks for taking the time to say that)
I was involved with the geothermal investigation of Meager Mountain in southern BC in the late 70’s-early 80’s (that’s 1970’s for those not yet born at the time) first with the GSC doing mercury and radon studies (elements that move more rapidly through the crust in areas of high heat flow) to being the drill site geologist though all of the first diamond drilling, and finally oil-rig-sized drilling to 13,000′–plus a fair bit of resistivity surveying during the development of the E-Scan technique now used by Crone Geophysics. The deep drilling was completed by about 1982–40 years ago. I was often measuring gradients of ~175Cº/km, some 6 to 7 times crustal average.
There it sits, having been considered Canada’s best geothermal site at the time. Two of the three deep holes could be stimulated with liquid nitrogen to produce steam, but sustained for only about 20 minutes after which water inflow loaded the holes above flash point for the steam and they stopped producing. And that’s only at under 2 miles (holes were deflected to reach TD at 13,000′ over a mile away from the collar, so as to be under the main massif and near the last known eruptive feeder zone).
So–150C at 3 to 5 miles is unlikely to be a geothermal resource, if 275C at 2 miles was not. The report uses the term ‘accessible’ where ‘exists’ should be used to tell the truth; there is no technology yet that would make that temperature, at that depth, ‘accessible’–as Dave indicated by the Davy Jones history.
And there is no ‘superheated trapped steam’ at 3 miles. Superheated water yes, steam no.
Finally–what’s dissolved in that water, and what does it do as the temperature drops?
BTW, many thousands of my bootprints on the south side of the Meager massif were obliterated 30 years later in the 2010 landslide, one of the largest slides in Canada’s recorded history. ‘Timing is everything’.
Len, good job outlining the realities of deep wells, high temperatures, supercritical water versus steam, and the question “what’s dissolved in that water…”. I work a lot in Nevada, where there are several geothermal electric-generating plants. Some are natural hot water and some are dry hot rocks where you inject water and get steam. The natural hot springs type are smelly and the dissolved salts/sulfates/phosphates rapidly clog up the pipes and valves. The hot dry rock zones demand a lot of water to inject, and it us usually discarded after one round-trip (see above). David M. is correct, the geothermal industry is limited and expensive.
Ron, several of the people I worked with at Meager went on to Nevada and did develop some of the operating plants down there.
It would be wise to not dismiss geothermal energy too quickly either; people who think it has no future might research Ormat Technologies and see how many plants they have built so far. Their technology is used for many if not most plants in Nevada, and it did not exist 60 years ago. It was/is also used in the Puna Geothermal plant inundated by the East Rift Zone eruption in Hawaii in 2018–talk about a renewable resource, a refresh was even naturally delivered to site. (I was going to add ‘try that with oil’, but evidence does exist that maybe it might, albeit not so spectacularly, or quickly.)
Because so many technical people working in geothermal research and development have been interested only in the high-profile generation of electricity I think much potential for low-grade geothermal has been largely overlooked–maybe until recently, with Nevada Geothermal now utilizing the energy for space heating around Reno.
But the Basin and Range geologic province where North America is over-riding the East Pacific Rise is a much better geothermal environment than central and east Texas with a 30 to 45 km thick crust and no tectonics to provide a greater than average heat flow, despite pretty maps with orange colours.
Steam-to-liquid water volume ratio is about 1600:1 which is why a pot of soup can be smelled in a house all day while the pot stays mostly full.
That is a point that I didn’t see in David’s article, and I was going to make. My understanding is that there are high maintenance costs involved because of the precipitation of dissolved salts, particularly in heat exchangers. And, if my memory serves me well, places like the Salton Sea also have high levels of heavy metals dissolved, which then create environmental problems with their disposal. These aren’t insurmountable engineering problems, but they do affect the economics and reliability. The more geothermal wells that are drilled, the more intractable the waste-water disposal problem becomes. Deep-well injection is a solution, but it commonly creates small earthquakes that are often intolerable in developed areas.
Details, details… 😎
Ah yes–‘the details’ as David mentions, therein live the devils. The Salton Sea field has had a lot of precipitation problems in pipes since it started, I toured the first plant shortly after it started production and remember the description. The precipitation often starts in the source area itself, as many geothermal resource areas are cemented shut by silica reducing permeability to near zero. Circulating hot systems are low resistivity, cemented ones are high; an aggravating detail for the geophysicists–and geologists trying to understand them.
One interesting observation of the Salton Sea plants–try and find a photo of them on a cold morning (cold being a relative term to someone who has worked in Yukon winters of course) and note the countable steam plumes.
Isn’t water vapour from those stacks a greenhouse gas?–that somehow gets a free pass?
Most alarmists dismiss H2O as a GHG supposedly because it is a condensing gas. It is a convenient fantasy that seems plausible only if they ignore the fact that humans can increase evaporation in numerous ways.
Now there’s a good point, Clyde–almost the entire Colorado flow used to remain liquid and end up in the Gulf of California; today almost all of it is evaporated by man, either directly from sprinklers or indirectly from evapotranspiration by crops. Similar with all the Klamath, Sierra Nevada, San Gabriel mountains water–it all used to flow to the Pacific.
Didn’t someone mention on here a couple of weeks ago the estimate that it takes 6 gallons of water to produce one almond? Today’s almond production in California is ~3 billion pounds according to USDA.
And where’s the Aral Sea?–I think ‘in the atmosphere’ is a fair answer. Not that that’s necessarily bad of course, or significant. We can adapt to what changes might result, or anguish and perish.
Geothermal is not renewable + excessive exploration would cool local lithosphere and might lead to earthquakes in previously stable areas.
Unprecedented earthquakes. 🤨
prec·e·dent noun /ˈpresədnt/
I think commenter vuk just created the precedent for previously unprecedented earthquakes.
They do cover the induced seismicity risks. Although, I don’t think heat depletion will be an issue at the depths they’re looking at.
A sphere with surface area 200 million square miles would hold a lot of thermal energy.
Geothermal is like Hydro. Different locations will work, others won’t.
(Enter Government and neither (new) projects will work anywhere.)
Yep. Texas could have built a lot of hydroelectric plants along the Trinity River when they dammed it up to impound more than 30 lakes.
However most, if not all, of the dams have insufficient hydrostatic head to generate electricity.
Well said .
We have some very successful geothermal power stations in New Zealand .
Our now departed Prime Nut Jacinda Ardern stated that she would close some of the stations down because they emitted to much CO2 .
It is impossible to get consent to build even small hydro stations anymore in New Zealand .
When the greens have a say in government energy production has to be wind and solar .
They are as thick as pig shi! as we run out of hydro power in a dry year and then import over a million tonnes of coal from Indonesia to run our large Huntly power station .
we have ample coal but the greens have virtually killed that industry.
The last geothermal plant in California went on line in 2012, a decade ago. None since for a good reason—not economic.
It’s not the temperature of the rock that’s the important factor, it’s the thermal conductivity. Solid lithospheric rock has low conductivity so replenishing the heat that is taken out by a heat pump will take a long time. The source will be empty in no time. Only where for instance hot water currents can move the heat underground it may work. Not many places however. Iceland, Yellowstone, New Zealand north island. Not Texas, I’m afraid.
There are a lot of hot brine-filled sandstones in Texas. Pretty well all the pore space in sandstone in the subsurface is filled with natural gas, other gases, oil, other petroleum liquids and brine… The vast majority of the pore space is occupied by brine.
Finding high pressure reservoirs that flow hot brine to the surface won’t be difficult to do. Completing and producing them will be the tricky bits… Assuming someone is willing to pay for it.
At a depth of 3 miles, under thousands pounds of pressure? I take from the paper that oil and gas are 800 ft. To put some perspective: the underground of the Netherland is in places 2 miles of sediment. Not far below the surface the movement of water is at osmotic speed.
That’s Travis County. As you move southeast, the sedimentary section thickens to >40,000′. Oil reservoirs, under the right P/T conditions are found at depths >20,000′ and gas reservoirs can exist even deeper. Hot brine is abundant as deep as the sedimentary section is.
Yeah but when you’re a Big Shot Moon Shot Climate Scientist and can cheerfully trample the 2nd Law willy-nilly any old time you like – AND have a supercomputer to stroke your ego AND have Trapped Heat that still re-radiates in all directions (can you get any more bizarre)= No Problemo
A Pony – that’s £500 innit (or half-a-grand)
You set your sights a bit low – that gets nothing these days. Thanks Boris
No free lunch.
They all seem to freak out about the tiny bit of CO2 burning fossil fuels adds to the atmosphere and the effect they think it will have decades or more down the road.
Why don’t they worry about the tons of “Earth” we’ve sent into orbit, other planets and beyond?
The Earth is less dense now. How will that effect Earth’s orbit?
(Just an attempt to give them something else to freak out about so they leave the rest of alone.) 😎
“An ‘Apollo’ Style Mobilization” Many 30-50 people don’t seem to understand that Apollo tech is now trailing edge tech. The guys who were young when they developed that stuff golf and read internet message boards in foofy hats and cargo shorts now. Many 10-30 people don’t realize walking on the moon was a big deal.
So is the Manhattan Project, we are still realizing that vaporizing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a big deal. It is very important that it is not forgotten, let alone the reasons why.
The pattern of applying technological advances to solve social issues is an indication of an evolving global awareness.
Singularity is still a long way off…
If Geothermal Wells were profitable they would litter the countryside and heat/power every house this side of the Rockys.
If I had sixpence for every time I’ve heard…
You’d have a half dozen Veeps in your front pocket
Nice play on words.
Keep the green gravy train on the rails at any price.
My younger brother was a geothermal scientist and traveled the world to most countries in the world that have geothermal potential .
I remember his very first assignment was in the Azores and then he spent time in Kenya working for the Kenya Power company helping develop their geothermal power .
He spent a lot of time in Central America and Indonesia and any where else there was geothermal .
When he was getting towards retirement a wealthy American business man was attempting to set up a geothermal power station close to Yellowstone in the US .
My brother was flown over there every year to monitor the drilling .
After a number of years and numerous bore holes the project was abandoned because of the risk of destroying the hot springs and geysers and lack of heat and steam further away from Yellowstone National Park .
I think the these people should pool their efforts and just drill the hell out of the Yellowstone caldera. It’s due to blow at some point anyway, and since these folks are basically hoping for the world to end, they might as well just get it over with.
Don’t give them any ideas…
David, I wouldn’t dream of it. Btw, nice articles!
“My sincere apologies to whoever (or is it whomever?) originally coined the phrase, …”
‘Whoever’ is correct.
I think this is one of those deals, where someone will correct you no matter which word you choose…
However, this grammar checker either flunked grammar or the answer isn’t so simple…
Grammar checker flunks.
Simple answer is that the object of ‘to’ is the entire clause “whoever originally coined the phrase, …“, of which ‘whoever’ is the subject.
You are correct… And whomever down-voted your comment needs to lighten up… 😉
Please stop down-voting Mike McMillan… He’s actually correct and I am very prone to sarcasm.
Gracias David. Not for nothing did I have a schoolteacher for a mom.
Life is tough for us grammar Nazis… 😆
After being surrounded by English majors for decades, I have low tolerance for silly English corrections.
Attending a class reunion, we were told to bring our favorite literary quotation, paragraph, comment, whatever.
I brought a J.R. Tolkien rhyme and submitted it along with everybody else’s bits.
It didn’t take ten minute before I overheard some ex-classmates criticizing the rhyme. A typical reaction, I’ve come to believe that is simply envy and frustration.
I accused them of being English majors and both admitted they were.
I’ve had similar experiences from quoting Samuel Clemens and James Thurber.
I went with my wife to her 20th high school reunion in 2006. I walked around introducing myself as, “Eric Stratton, rush chairman, damn glad to meet you.”
Very few of her former classmates realized I was quoting Tim Matheson’s character from Animal House… 😎
No wonder it’s on DoE’s priority grant list–it’s going nowhere fast!
Anyone can write/build their own ‘what if’ fantasies.
People planning their savings, investment portfolios or even their household budgets build fantasy models all of the time.
That doesn’t make their models one iota more accurate or likely.
Except, those vaporized rock fumes must be flushed out of the hole… Preferably before vaporized rock fumes condense/laminate where they’re not appreciated.
Flushed from the hole will be air filled with rock dust/particles. Not flushed from the hole quick enough and that dust will settle back down the hole.
What happens to the climate if there is a sudden increase in glassy rock spherules spewing from thousands of laser-ablated drill holes?
We get a whole new crop of Younger Dryas impact posts? 😎
All of that glassy dust particles, if the laser ablation is well enough ventilated?
I expect more rain. Though, I doubt it will be identifiable. A small hole, even one miles deep, isn’t going to put much rock bits into the atmosphere.
Those glassy spherules could certainly mess up a lot of archeological dating attempts.
I have an old geothermal study from UTA about reusing abandoned oil wells in TX for geothermal sites. Of the thousands listed, there were less than 250 wells with the depth,temperature, and access potential. Wonder what happened to that idea over the past 15 years?
I didn’t see any mention about closed loop geothermal. I assume if they have that much trouble with water and pressure, getting a tube down there and back is beyond the scope of feasible.
Also, it probably isn’t as profitable as O&G, but I think it would be a better use of funds than continuing wind and solar development.
From the article”… upper 10 miles of the core holds an estimated 1,000 years’ worth…”
Why expend all that time and money for paltry 1000 years. Methane hydrates could supply multiple thousand years of energy.
Methane hydrates aren’t easy to acquire. It takes cold and pressure to form them, but once that happens they can be stable at warmer temps and lower pressures. For seabed hydrates, I don’t think you could drill into pockets and get the gas, more likely you’d have to mine them, dredging sediment up from the seafloor to the surface, then collecting the gas after it warmed up. Then dump the mud back in the water. Lotta work.
Here’s a grapefruit sized chunk of mined hydrate mud. You’d have to heat a lot of mud to get the methane out if you wanted to leave it in place in the seafloor.
The economics are really awful.
We’ve been told that fracking (i.e. drilling) causes dangerous earthquakes. What in Pete’s name will deep holes like this cause over time? How are they going to keep underground acquifers from leaking into these wells thus depleting them? Is the hole going to be lined all the way down? How in the heck does that get done?
At the Geysers PP in Calif they solved the water depletion situation with waste water injection sites taking the city wastewater and pumping it up the mountain to inject it into the ground for reuse as steam. The place never smelled the same again
Thanks for the reply. I guess I wasn’t clear. How do you keep an underground aquifer like the Ogallala Aquifer from leaking into the bore holes?
The power plants need steam. It saves the cost of pumps. 🙂
Drain it. I hear tell that has already been widely accomplished.
Yeah, that’s a problem!
The challenge is to prevent the deep super-heated brines from leaking into the shallow fresh water aquifers… Steel and cement handle this.
I think that the intent is that the borehole will be lined with glass created by the laser ablation drill. Glass is impervious, but brittle. So, I would expect that it wouldn’t take long for the glass lining to lose its integrity. It will also probably be susceptible to being dissolved by the hot brine.
Its a trivial engineering problem that the big thinkers can’t be bothered with. /sarc
I thought of that… But “cauterized” was the word that popped into my head. Either the hot brine would be permanently sealed off… Or it would become an uncontrollable blowout because there wasn’t heavy drilling mud in the hole, which would have lithified and sealed off the reservoir, as it did at Davy Jones… 😎
Do you actually expect much brine circulating at the depths to be drilled? I think it is physicists behind the drilling proposals instead of geologists. It will be interesting to watch how this develops.
I’d expect a lot of brine, at a very high rate, with an uncontrollable open hole… Completing the well in a manner that it will controllably flow is the problem.
My recollection from my time in the utility business is that steam in fossil fired power plants was heated to over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, and that is temperature of the steam that went into the turbines. The high pressure superheated steam had to be “dewatered” in a steam separator before it went to the turbines. I don’t know if steam turbines in decommissioned fossil power plants could run on briny steam at 300 degrees, but I highly doubt it.
If you take out those problems and the apparent drilling problems, it all sounds like a great idea.
Drilling to those depths is possible, but the completions would eat you alive!
Thanks David for the interesting post. And thanks to all the professional commentators for their interesting and valuable information.
Dave Middleton – nice synopsis, but you didn’t include the most important issue with deep drilling, the Mole People storming from their subterranean (geothermal) caverns:
I like how Mole Men’s skins have zippers.
When my sister in law work for Schlumberger in Roswell, she stated a lot of well holes are filled with concrete then capped somewhere below ground level in New Mexico.
If this is the case in a lot of locations, it’s going to put a quick stop to any re-use plans.
Properly plugged and abandoned wells are very difficult to reuse because the purpose of properly plugging and abandoning them is to prevent fluids like brine, oil and natural gas from seeping up into fresh water aquifers and/or to the surface.
Oil & gas companies generally do look for other ways to make money. Many, if not most, oil & gas companies are actively evaluating the possibility of making money drilling CCS wells.
Exactly. Big Oil got to be Big by knowing what was successful.
Why? Probably because they like being successful.
So I have found it bewildering that people seem to think that Big Oil is just going to calmly roll over and die when the oil runs out.
I think it is extremely more likely that they already have a very pragmatic world view and look very willingly to see where they can move sideways if need be into new markets.
Big Oil isn’t going away. They might rename themselves – Big Soylent maybe? – but there is no way they are just going to roll over
“By hooking a megawatt-power gyrotron up to the latest in cutting tools, Quaise expects to be able to blaze its way through the toughest, hottest rock, down to depths of around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in a matter of months.”
yes. 1,645 months, give or take a decade
lying sacks of poo
How long will the wells produce warm water before cooling off? The thermal conductivity of rock is not very good. Imagine spending millions of dollars on a geothermal well and then production tapers off in a year or two. That would be like building a very expensive windmill and then the wind being variable.
The rocks won’t cool off. The well will eventually stop flowing a commercial volume of very hot water due to pressure depletion. That could happen quickly or take a very long time, depending on the structural and stratigraphic configuration of the reservoir.
If you keep extracting heat from something, guess what happens. It gets cooler. So you start to reduce your heat input and drilling more holes won’t help as you get more cooling. Yep, it is still effing hot but this is what they have been seeing in Iceland.
Geothermal? I worked on the Geothermal plants at the Salton Sea in California, does that quailify me as an expert or having knowledge of geothermal. No.
But it did make me curious so I did educate myself.
Geothermal is a huge failure. Does it work? Kind of.
once you drill that well and hit your
source, no different than taking a lid off
a pot of water the heat and steam
The Brawley, Calipatria, Salton sea
geothermal plant must drill new wells
forever. Every day forever they drill to
find new sources.
At the Geysers they must inject water,
Extremely expensive, subsidized, hence the profit is in completing projects for the green energy subsidies. The profit was not in the selling of electricity.
Geothermal also is given power purchase agreements guaranteeing an expensive price for the electricity they sell. Geothermal power does not compete in the free market.
Do I need to be able to read the report and comment scientifically. No. Hell, I dont see a link in the article to the report. The report is irrelevant and incidental to the article.
Geothermal power has been built at the best sites available. Yes it works, but not economically.