Hot Times Ahead: The New Geothermal
01/08/2013 8:30 am EST
Energy expert Thomas Drolet updates investors on new developments in the geothermal energy field.
We're at The World MoneyShow in Chicago and I'm with Tom Drolet and we're going to talk about new geothermal.
Yes, Greg, new geothermal. Let's get out of the way the household or the residential geothermal, which is many houses.
The quaint Geothermal?
Well, quaint...but it's good, useful energy. What you're doing is taking the temperature difference between the surface and say 100 feet under your house and using that temperature difference to drive a heat pump and lessen your electricity bill. A lot of places are using that. It's more effective in the south than it is in the north, but it's there.
What I'd like to get into, though, is conventional big geothermal. Now let's take the example of the west, north of San Francisco, there's the large geyser field that's got 1,000 megawatts of geothermal energy. What they've done is they've drilled two miles down into the rock and then that fracture zone that's down there at two miles, the interstitial water that's already in the rock; hot rock.
Why is it hot? Because the magma close to where those tectonic plates come together, the San Andreas Fault, that hot water turns to steam as it comes up the wellbore into a turbine generator that makes electricity. There are 22 plants up in the geyser field operating today.
There are literally hot spots around the world, not just on the west cost of the US. Examples would be in the Tuscany part of Italy, the whole Ring of Fire. It goes right down the west coast of South America through and out the Philippines into Japan. That whole area can and has developed geothermal, this deep steam source of geothermal energy.
But in order to spread geothermal again more democratically all over the world, we need to find a way to either drill more economically or deeper, because in fact there's hot rock right under here in Chicago. But instead of being down two miles, it's down five miles, so it's uneconomic right now to get down there.
So the interim way we're looking at is a couple of companies. One of them is SoloGen of San Antonio, Texas, another GreenWell, a company in Vancouver, Canada. They're looking at taking abandoned oil and gas wells.
For instance, in the southern part of Texas, there are 86,000 abandoned oil and gas wells that are underlaid by a reservoir of hot brine containing some natural gas. So, if you just uncap those, put skid-mounted equipment, conventional technologies.things like organic rankine cycle engines, turbines, what's called a kinetic energy machine. You can make electricity of the hot brine water coming up and out of these wells, about 3 megawatts per well. So that's an exciting new geothermal method.