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Earth Power Hardware

Pouring Water Into a Volcano To Generate Power 321

Posted by samzenpus
from the pele-approved dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Until recently, geothermal power systems have exploited only resources where naturally occurring heat, water, and rock permeability are sufficient to allow energy extraction. Now, geothermal energy developers plan use a new technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of the dormant Newberrry Volcano, located about 20 miles south of Bend, Oregon, in an effort to use the earth's heat to generate power. 'We know the heat is there,' says Susan Petty, president of AltaRock Energy, Inc. of Seattle. 'The big issue is can we circulate enough water through the system to make it economic.' Since natural cracks and pores do not allow economic flow rates, the permeability of the volcanic rock can be enhanced with EGS by pumping high-pressure cold water down an injection well into the rock, creating tiny fractures in the rock, a process known as hydroshearing. Then cold water is pumped down production wells into the reservoir, and the steam is drawn out. Natural geothermal resources only account for about 0.3 percent of U.S. electricity production, but a 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology report projected EGS could bump that to 10 percent within 50 years, at prices competitive with fossil-fuels. 'The important question we need to answer now,' says USGS geophysicist Colin Williams, 'is how geothermal fits into the renewable energy picture, and how EGS fits. How much it is going to cost, and how much is available.'"
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Pouring Water Into a Volcano To Generate Power

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  • by aoeu (532208) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:42AM (#38705476)
    What could possibly go wrong . . .
  • Re:Not just that (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:46AM (#38705494)

    I think this would be a great idea if it could work. The problem would most likely be polution. There is also the political issues of the fact that burning trash would emit CO2. I personaly think AGW is a load of crap, but I do recognize that some people would feel it important enough to bring the government down on this practice.

    The other problem is that wouldn't want everything that goes into a landfill being burned and put into the atmosphere, quite a lot would be toxic. I think that if you started seperating what's OK from what's bad, you'd end up with a pile of landfill waste, a pile of recyclable items, and a very small if not nonexistant pile of volcano fuel.

    Plus there shouldn't be any need. If what I've read is correct, the energy created by the (inactive)volcano would far surpass our ability to extract energy.

  • by lightknight (213164) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:48AM (#38705500) Homepage

    Part of me agrees with you; however, another part of me thinks that until we try, we'll never know whether our fears are just that, fears.

    So I, for one, think we should consider it.

  • Water shortages? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by acoustix (123925) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:48AM (#38705508) Homepage

    I didn't RTFA, but with our projected water shortages coming in the future do we really want to be pumping millions of gallons for energy? Surely there's a better way to get usable energy.

  • by fafaforza (248976) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:56AM (#38705558)

    I wouldn't want a profit driven corporation in charge of something like this. They'll have an interest in making it work no matter if there are warning signs or risks.

  • by fafaforza (248976) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:57AM (#38705564)

    They could use salt water. Desalinating water is still fairly expensive, as far as I know, so that might not take away from the availability of drinkable water. Though what effect the salt would have on the process would have to be studied.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:59AM (#38705576)

    There is indeed a much better way to obtain huge quantities of usable energy. Waste less of it on unnecessary luxuries.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:00AM (#38705580)

    At least you can sue the corporation when they fuck up. good luck with the government

  • yea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:07AM (#38705616) Homepage Journal
    sue, and do what, exactly ? gain a $5 bn award in damages ? after a volcano erupts, kills a few thousand, poisons a few more million mildly through what it releases ?

    what happened when bp fucked up the entire mexico gulf ecosystem ?
  • by semi-extrinsic (1997002) <asmunder&stud,ntnu,no> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:11AM (#38705640)
    Sounds like someone took The Day After Tomorrow a little too seriously...

    Seriously, though, any method of producing energy will necessarily have a negative impact on something. Here in Norway, we have a lot of "clean" hydropower, but that has always faced opposition from environmentalists worrying about salmon and other fish, and from the native Sami people in the north. If you want to reduce global CO2 emissions, you are inevitably going to damage something else in some way. It is always a tradeoff, trying to find the least total negative impact.
  • by sycodon (149926) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:18AM (#38705694)

    by pumping high-pressure cold water down an injection well into the rock, creating tiny fractures in the rock, a process known as hydroshearing.

    They can't call it Fraking because all the folks in Oregon would come at them with torches scythes, and pitchforks.

  • by tomhath (637240) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:22AM (#38705710)
    The volcano is right between two decent sized lakes so there's plenty of water available.

    As far as water "shortages", it's really a water distribution problem. There's plenty of fresh water flowing down rivers into the ocean. But people like to live in desert climates like Phoenix and Las Vegas where they don't have to worry about rainy days messing up the golf they play on irrigated fairways.

  • Re:yea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by yahwotqa (817672) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:57AM (#38705902)

    That's nice, but the bar for "enough" is set too high.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:29PM (#38706122)

    At least you can sue the corporation when they fuck up. good luck with the government

    You mean... there's a difference?

  • Re:yea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:30PM (#38706126) Homepage Journal
    - 1) There's now incentive to stop really harmful activities

    there is ?!?!!?! do you think gulf spill was the first dumbfounding disaster in corporate history ? what makes it any different now ?

    - 2) Those private businesses that cause harm pay compensation for their harm

    will that bring back 2000 or so dead people ?

    - 3) Those businesses go away, if they cause enough harm.

    did exxon mobil go away ? did pfizer go away after poisoning hundreds of thousands in india ? have bp gone away ?
  • Re:yea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:44PM (#38706208)

    there is ?!?!!?! do you think gulf spill was the first dumbfounding disaster in corporate history ? what makes it any different now ?

    No, nor will it be the last. One also has to consider the size, frequency, and duration of such accidents. For example, the Deepwater Horizon spill was stopped in a few short months. BP could have in the absence of regulation and liability, just ignored the spill (leaving it permanently on) and moved on.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:01PM (#38706310)
    Well, if the sea cannot cool down and underwater volcano, what makes you think that pumping a little pissant stream into one will do anything?
  • Re:Not just that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oiron (697563) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:04PM (#38706336) Homepage

    Forget AGW - though I don't agree with you on that (that's another discussion)

    The real problem is that when you indiscriminately burn junk like plastics and other long-chain polymers, you end up with dioxins and furans. Those are some seriously toxic chemicals coming out of that mix. It's essentially burning an unholy mess of everything known to man that we ever throw out. Any of those toxins get into the water supply somewhere, you've got SERIOUS problems!

    And why burn the compostable solids, anyway? We've got a better use for them; really composting, and then using the compost as manure for our gardens and farmlands...

  • by poity (465672) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:10PM (#38706368)

    I don't understand why many on slashdot are against this. We mock anti-nuclear power alarmists for blowing fears out of proportion, yet here we are saying "Oh no we shouldn't do this because there might be a catastrophe"

  • Re:yea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oiron (697563) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:14PM (#38706376) Homepage

    Why should those companies go away? Shouldn't the punishment fit the crime (I don't consider any of the above serious crimes FYI either because they weren't that serious or didn't happen as in the case of Pfizer)? Or should we execute you when you jaywalk?

    Entire ecosystems destroyed, livelihoods (for fishermen, for example) ruined, 200000 people poisoned in Bhopal,...

    That's JAYWALKING ?

    Union Carbide at the very least deserves execution (i.e., revocation of the corporate charter, maybe imprisonment of the top management on manslaughter charges).

  • Re:yea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khipu (2511498) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:32PM (#38706510)

    Somebody has to drill for oil, and they are going to create oil spills, that's just a fact of life. We (humans) try to do the best we can when weighing costs and benefits, and when we get it wrong, we try to correct it. But doing nothing because it might be too risky is just as bad as not regulating things at all.

    I suspect BP and Exxon both had a much harder time getting new contracts, but in the end, there are few companies that can do these kinds of jobs. So what alternative do you suggest?

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy

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