Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
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.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Pouring Water Into a Volcano To Generate Power

Comments Filter:
  • Not just that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aglider (2435074) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @10:40AM (#38705464) Homepage

    Why not throwing the waste there instead of the landfill?

  • by semi-extrinsic (1997002) <<asmunder> <at> <stud.ntnu.no>> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:03AM (#38705598)
    This reminds me of one of the stories about the Manhattan Project. Before the first (Trinity) test, Enrico Fermi began offering anyone listening a wager on "whether or not the bomb would ignite the atmosphere, and if so, whether it would merely destroy New Mexico or destroy the world." They still went through with it.
  • Re:Not just that (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gordonjcp (186804) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:22AM (#38705714) Homepage

    Why not use the volcano as a heat source for gasification and thermal depolymerisation then?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:23AM (#38705720)

    There were apparently theories that the upper atmosphere was uncombined hydrogen
    and oxygen, and that there was a chance a V2 going high enough would set it off.
    Lotta nerve there.

  • Not again? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:29AM (#38705748) Homepage Journal

    The results of that review have not yet been announced, but the type of geothermal energy explored in Basel and at the Geysers requires fracturing the bedrock then circulating water through the cracks to produce steam. By its nature, fracturing creates earthquakes [nytimes.com], though most of them are small.

    I live near The Geysers, where "treated" sewage water is pumped into the ground in order to keep geothermal production up at the powerplant, which is perpetually over budget and under production, and which has produced a superfund site where they formerly buried the spray-off from the turbine wheels in drums. The turbines are produced by Halliburton — I've seen the red Halliburton truck dragging one up Bottle Rock Rd. on a massive flatbed. Failure all around... the one bright spot is that there is a process for making claims for damage due to the euphemistically-named "microseismicity" [andersonsprings.org] as it is generally accepted that the pumping causes quakes.

  • Re:yea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @11:45AM (#38705830)

    And no one's gone to the trouble of modeling what happens when you chill down part of a lava dome. Does it harden, then blow sky high? Does it pressure masses underneath the caldera to cause nice earthquakes? Do you get a nice fissure opening up somewhere else to flow the lava into new and vulnerable areas? How long before the solidification means you have drill new spots? How are you going to stabilize the old spots? I don't think there are any lava-eating bacteria to help save the day here. There is nothing we have that's going to repair a newly active caldera. Look at what St Helens did, just a few miles up the road. Talk about playing with matches....

  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denzacar (181829) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:21PM (#38706078) Journal

    When the person representing the corporation in charge says something like this:

    "We know the heat is there," said Susan Petty, president of AltaRock.
    "The big issue is can we circulate enough water through the system to make it economic."

    And the expert seismologist [scientificamerican.com] says something like this:

    We've been monitoring [The Geysers] since 1975.
    All the earthquakes we see there are [human] induced.
    When they move production into a new area, earthquakes start there, and when they stop production, the earthquakes stop.

    Well... You kinda have a reason to fear. [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:yea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:27PM (#38706462) Homepage

    And no one's gone to the trouble of modeling what happens when you chill down part of a lava dome. Does it harden, then blow sky high? Does it pressure masses underneath the caldera to cause nice earthquakes? Do you get a nice fissure opening up somewhere else to flow the lava into new and vulnerable areas? How long before the solidification means you have drill new spots? How are you going to stabilize the old spots? I don't think there are any lava-eating bacteria to help save the day here. There is nothing we have that's going to repair a newly active caldera. Look at what St Helens did, just a few miles up the road. Talk about playing with matches....

    Are you making the question in the rhetorical sense because you know for a fact that no one is doing just that, or are you asking the question because that is what you are assuming?

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:18PM (#38707166) Homepage Journal

    During the Westmann Islands eruption, they froze the leading edge of the lava flow to divert it from blocking a harbor. The lava just goes somewhere else.

    They estimate that geothermal fields are good for 50-100 years.

  • Re:Not just that (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rei (128717) on Monday January 16, 2012 @04:37AM (#38711544) Homepage

    In fact, there are very few places in the world (I believe it's seven) where there are exposed, persistent lava lakes. They're very rare. I believe the list is Erta Ale (Ethiopia); Nyiragongo (Congo); Erebus (Antarctica, offshore island) ; Saunders (South Sandwich Islands); Villarrica (Chile); Kilauea (Hawaii); and Marum (Vanuatu). It's one of my dreams to someday climb the volcano on Saunders and see the lava lake at the summit; as far as I am aware, nobody has ever done so (its existence is inferred from the presence of a persistent steam cloud and satellite thermal imaging, but it's a very remote, inhospitable location; to even get there, you have to charter an oceangoing yacht and do a difficult landing in an inflatable boat, timed to the waves, onto rocky cliffs, in the middle of the South Atlantic).

    No, drilling into a magma chamber doesn't trigger an eruption. A tiny borehole isn't nearly enough of a weakness (remember also that it's not so much a "hole"; it's a tube full of "mud" with roughly the same density as the surrounding rock, so the pressure is equalized). They accidentally drilled into a magma chamber in Krafla (Iceland) at one point. The magma filled up the bottom couple dozen meters of the bore before semi-solidifying. Not sure what to do, they tried starting injecting water, and it actually worked; they're now producing steam from it and are considering drilling more such holes intentionally (they had previously tried to avoid the magma).

If A = B and B = C, then A = C, except where void or prohibited by law. -- Roy Santoro

Working...