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Power Hardware Science

Volcano Power Plan Gets US Go-Ahead 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-get-cooking dept.
cylonlover writes "Having successfully negotiated the challenging regulatory slopes of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a host of Oregon state agencies, the Newberry Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) demonstration project is in the process of creating a new geothermal reservoir in central Oregon. The core of the new reservoir is a two mile (3.2 km) deep well drilled about four miles (6.4 km) from the center of Newberry Volcano. The rock surrounding the wellbore reaches temperatures in the order of 600 F (300 C), and is nearly impermeable to water. That, however, is about to change. Newberry Volcano is one of the largest and youngest volcanoes in the United States. Having last erupted about 1,300 years ago, it consists of over 400 individual volcanic vents, which, when combined, form a broad mounded landform referred to as a shield volcano. The Newberry EGS Demonstration geothermal reservoir is being formed in the high-temperature, low-permeability deep lava of the volcano's northwest flank."
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Volcano Power Plan Gets US Go-Ahead

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's hot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:15AM (#41851633)

    But drilling holes into a live volcano is perfectly fine.

    Yeah, I know. One is "green" and the other is "EEEVUL petroleum".

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:18AM (#41851653)
      Oh come on. What could possibly go wrong?
      • by mlosh (18885)

        Yeah, this post needs a 'x whatcouldpossiblygowrong' tag.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        With a comment like that... Jeremy Clarkson could build it.
        Or given his trips to the US, Hammond.

        Let's hope those 'what's' don't go wrong.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          I think this sort of dangerous stuff should be left to captain slow.

          • by ByOhTek (1181381)

            Yes. Probably not a bad idea. He probably wouldn't even finish his planning or organizing his wrenches (spanners) until the human race was extinct.

          • by mykey2k (42851)

            To be fair, May is the only one of the three that has driven on an active volcano in the second Hilux (the production vehicle used for the Pole trip).

            He even built a tire cooling system for it.

            He's clearly the most qualified. Godspeed Captain Slow!
            -m

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:43AM (#41852303)

        Oh come on. What could possibly go wrong?

        Other than some barely perceptible tremors in an unpopulated area? By drawing heat out of the volcano, it will make it less likely to erupt. The waste water will have lots of sulfer, but that also occurs naturally. I don't see any serious concerns.

        Unlike other green energy sources, geothermal can provide reliable 24/7/365 baseload power. We should be encouraging projects like this.

         

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The biggest concerns are around the history of this type of work. Geothermal power in the US hasn't been very economical due to the rather fast "cooling" of the material. See the mostly failed geothermal work done in Napa and Sonoma counties in California. Yes, they still operate - and even give tours. But they never made money and have shutdown most of their plants. Hopefully this one works better. I imagine they have learned from past mistakes, but my gut reaction is "not this again.".
          • See the mostly failed geothermal work done in Napa and Sonoma counties in California. Yes, they still operate - and even give tours. But they never made money and have shutdown most of their plants.

            The Geysers [wikipedia.org] currently produce enough electricity to supply more than a million people. That is not peak production, but the main problem is not cooling but insufficient water. They are working now to expand capacity by injecting waste water. So I don't think this was as much of a failure as you describe. Besides, The Geysers GT plant was first opened in 1960. We have learned a tremendous amount about techniques like slant and horizontal drilling since then. Some new fracking techniques for opening fi

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Congratulations, you've mastered the mysteries of geodynamics. Please inform the rest of the scientific community on this. After all drawing water from ancient aquifers doesn't cause any problems and forcing water into fault lines doesn't destabilize anything.

          "By drawing heat out of the volcano, it will make it less likely to erupt."
          Maybe if they can cool the earth's mantle.

        • What about nuclear, hydroelectric, and tidal power?

          And before I get modded down as a troll, let me point out that the OP drew some arbitrary lines that in the real world tend to be fuzzy.

          • What about nuclear, hydroelectric, and tidal power?

            What about them? Nuclear is politically untenable, plus it is expensive, and getting more so. Hydroelectric doesn't scale, most good dam sites are already taken. Tidal power also doesn't scale well and has harmful effects on tidal basins that are biodiversity hotspots.

            Geothermal on the other hand, scales just fine. The side effects are minimal, and there is enough hot rock inside the earth to meet our current consumption for a few million years. We shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket, but it seems

            • by Creepy (93888)

              And you missed most including this will lose a ton of power in transmission. And volcano power IS nuclear power - the earth is powered by a molten thorium reaction.

              I am a huge proponent of LFTR based nuclear reactors, but I think the thorium energy alliance is advertising them the wrong way - not only are they vastly safer, but they can burn our nuclear waste in the short term, then switch to thorium when that is expired and while the thorium mining industry is established.
              When Al Franken asked Peter Lions

        • by khallow (566160) on Friday November 02, 2012 @11:30AM (#41853507)

          The waste water will have lots of sulfer, but that also occurs naturally.

          Well, there's a serious concern right there. Dose makes the poison.

          And we need to consider what's attached to that sulfur. It usually isn't elemental sulfur. Metals such as iron, lead, copper, etc are usually attached. They're naturally occurring as well, but not in the concentrations dealt with in hydrothermal fluid.

          Having said that, it's merely a serious problem that adds cost to the system, not an insurmountable one.

          • by Solandri (704621) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:20PM (#41854877)

            The waste water will have lots of sulfer, but that also occurs naturally.

            Well, there's a serious concern right there. Dose makes the poison.

            Ideally, your primary water loop is self-contained and thus never leaves the system (volcano and primary geothermal equipment in this case). You send the water down, it picks up heat and sulfur and other stuff, it comes up. Then you run it through a heat exchanger where the heat (and only the heat) is transferred to a second water loop. That second loop is what drives your turbine generators. The reason for this isn't environmental protection. It's to protect the generators from corrosion and all sorts of crud that might be in the primary loop water.

        • The waste water will have lots of sulfur, but that also occurs naturally.

          so? oil, arsenic, and mercury, and various radioactive elements are all natural to. just remember natural != good.

        • Oh come on. What could possibly go wrong?

          Other than some barely perceptible tremors in an unpopulated area? By drawing heat out of the volcano, it will make it less likely to erupt.

          And by injecting lots of water into a magmatic region, you are decreasing the viscosity of the magma, so it can more easily spill out. Also, rock under pressure and temperature that doesn't melt while devoid of water can melt after being hydrated. It's like salting ice, it melts because of the change in melting point.

        • it will make it less likely to erupt

          Uh, no. First, you'll not affect the upwelling of heat from the lower mantle. Second, you might increase the viscosity in the localized region around the well, which might have the opposite effect by forcing any upwelling magma to seek other directions for expansion, should there be pressure to expand. Third, if the water does ever reach the magma, it will enhance the probability of an eruption.

      • We're just playing with volcanically active areas. It has been done a million times. Don't worry your pretty little head.

        • For the love of god what do you bloody fucking hippies want? Want us to shut it all down so we can go back to the god damn stone age? How about we all sit around the camp fire, smoke weed, and eat what ever nuts we can find?

          We had a great alternative. Nuclear till you fucking eco nuts started screaming your damn heads off about radiation and shit. If you would have kept your damn yaps shut and just offered suggestions instead of protesting we'd have sustainable and safe nuclear reactors now. But now

          • by Creepy (93888)

            I've read hydro also slows the earth rotation. I know no more than that - perhaps snopes does.

            The problem is eco-nuts don't understand how radiation works - I got a kick out of telling one of the idiots that her sunburn is a radiation burn and she denied it. Most don't know that coal emits scads of radiation, natural gas emits radon, granite contains thorium (a weak alpha emitter), potassium, which you need to live is a beta emitter... the list goes on. The fact is, radiation is inversely proportional to ha

            • by riverat1 (1048260)

              I've read hydro also slows the earth rotation.

              That makes sense. Storing more water at a higher elevation would move mass away from the Earth's center slowing the rotation a bit, just like a figure skater in a spin slows it down by spreading their arms or a leg. By the same token the melting of mountain glaciers would speed the Earth's rotation up a bit since the mass would be moving closer to the center. But the effect has got to be pretty miniscule considering the mass involved compared to the Earth's total mass.

          • For the love of god what do you bloody fucking hippies want? Want us to shut it all down so we can go back to the god damn stone age? How about we all sit around the camp fire, smoke weed, and eat what ever nuts we can find?

            Do you have any idea how dangerous and polluting wood fires are? People get burned all the time, and the smoke from them causes asthma in small children. The soot blackens everything in sight, and the carbon released contributes to global warming. Clearly campfires are WAY too dangerous to be used as a power source!

    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:23AM (#41851683) Journal

      I think the volume of ground affected by fracking is quite a bit larger than that hole being drilled into the volcano, and the goal with fracking is to mess around with the pressure under the surface, where ideally this is close a pressure neutral (volume changing, and that, I suspect will happen at/above surface level) system. Lastly, waste products from fracking tend not to be well controlled/cleaned except maybe on paper, the water (or other liquid) use here should be in a fairly closed system and shouldn't be introduced to toxic chemicals. Not that this is the wisest idea either, but an experimental site should provide interesting details as to the danger.

      Your comment could similarly read as:

      Stalin (who was once a baby) is horrible
      but other people are perfectly fine.

      Yeah, I know. One is "human" the other is "a madman".

      • by Tator Tot (1324235) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:57AM (#41852475)

        I think the volume of ground affected by fracking is quite a bit larger than that hole being drilled into the volcano, and the goal with fracking is to mess around with the pressure under the surface, where ideally this is close a pressure neutral (volume changing, and that, I suspect will happen at/above surface level) system. Lastly, waste products from fracking tend not to be well controlled/cleaned except maybe on paper, the water (or other liquid) use here should be in a fairly closed system and shouldn't be introduced to toxic chemicals. Not that this is the wisest idea either, but an experimental site should provide interesting details as to the danger.

        It bothers me when people discuss their uninformed opinions relating to a topic as fact.

        1) The amount of fluid used in these deep shale formations is quite large, but even when you drill horizontally for a mile and then fracture 1000+ feet above and below the hole, you're still typically 12,000 feet below the surface (therefore the "frac zone" is from 11,000 to 13,000 feet). So even if you have DEEP water table of 2000 feet below the surface (where nearly none are this deep), the alleged "toxic chemicals" would have to travel a distance of around 9,000 feet (in this case) in order to taint the water supply. I've sat through enough presentations with REAL data obtained in the field to know that the fractures occur nowhere near these water zones.

        2) The purpose of fracking is to increase the permeability of low-permeability shales (traditional reservoirs are in the mili-darcy range were unconventional reservoirs are more in the micro to nano-darcy range). They use high pressure fluid to open up the shale. Has nothing to do with adding pressure under the surface.

        3) Waste products tend not to be controlled? Are you fucking nuts? The amount of regulation on what to do with the waste water is HUGE (and the assfucks that attempt to dump these fluids are massively fined), not to mention that a good chunk of fracking research goes into figuring out how to best reclaim and reuse of the fluid. Besides being 99% water and sand, the other additives are typically guar, biocides, polyacrylamides for friction reduction, corrosion inhibitors, citric acid, and ethylene glycol.

        By the way, I work in a plant that makes a variety of additives for drilling and fracking fluids. Would you believe me if I told you that our facility is not capable or certified to handle any type of hazardous materials? That would mean that our company is going to get shut down by the government if they find out.... or maybe that the majority of additives for drilling and fracking fluids are non-hazardous?

        • Waste products tend not to be controlled? Are you fucking nuts? The amount of regulation on what to do with the waste water is HUGE (and the assfucks that attempt to dump these fluids are massively fined),

          Once again, on paper. I suggest you go out to the formations where they *do* fracking and take a drive around. You'll find more than a few locations where good chunks of land has been completely sterilized by the truck-driver that got tired of waiting in line at the disposal station and dumped in the ditch. Either that or his company told him to drive 'over that hill there' and dump it out so they could get back to drilling.

          I don't know what the hell they put into or take out of the wells, but the effect

          • go out to the formations where they *do* fracking and take a drive around. You'll find more than a few locations where good chunks of land has been completely sterilized by the truck-driver that got tired of waiting in line at the disposal station and dumped in the ditch.

            I don't want to seem like a know-it-all, mainly because I didn't make the original statement, but you do know that salt, vinegar, and citric acid all kill most small plants, right? Just because nothing grows there doesn't mean "OMG it's toxic to everything!!1!", it means that something is inhibiting the growth of indigenous plants.

            Ever looked at the land around an organic cattle rancher's feed lot? Organic pig farm? There's a whole lot of dead area, and it's not because they use dangerous chemicals, it's

          • Remember that you have to get a permit from the state in order to frack. If the amount of waste generated is too much, or if the state doesn't have the resources to regulate the disposal of the fluids, then it's the state that should hold back from offering fracking permits until they have a better hand on the situation, assuming they are over burdened.

            But then again, it's the state that is reaping the tax benefits of the increased O&G production. They will most likely be less concerned about the envi

        • by Creepy (93888)

          So how do you solve the additional and sometimes dangerous levels of radon that get forced to the surface in this process (or so I've heard)? I've seen the anti-fracking movie and heard industry rebuttals, but they didn't really cover radon. I personally don't have an objective opinion, as I tend to take any documentary with a slice of pie (as opposed to a grain of sand), as they usually are about as objective as a union member defending unions.

        • 3) Waste products tend not to be controlled? Are you fucking nuts? The amount of regulation on what to do with the waste water is HUGE (and the assfucks that attempt to dump these fluids are massively fined), not to mention that a good chunk of fracking research goes into figuring out how to best reclaim and reuse of the fluid.

          Ummm you do know that corporations compare, among many other items, the costs of these 4 things:

          1) The costs of doing a workman-like, regulations-following, job of cleaning up.

          2) The costs of cleaning up well enough to avoid prosecution.

          3) The fines for not cleaning up. Including lobbying, legal fees, and the odds of being prosecuted for not cleaning up.

          4) The costs of letting the local buffer corporation go bankrupt while the public pays for clean up.

    • by alen (225700) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:25AM (#41851697)

      Iceland does this
      They get lots of power from geothermal

  • by Quila (201335) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:16AM (#41851635)

    And shut it down. Earl's never going to get rich.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I thought that getting your startup bought out was *the* method of getting rich?

      • by Quila (201335)

        They bought the mountain to prevent it from being used for energy production.

  • Save the lava-salmon! Fish-ladder or bust!
  • They're mountains that shoot fire! That is literally the definition of the word awesome, am I right?
    • by alphatel (1450715) *
      Not to mention it's "Vulcan energy" so it even sounds cool - maybe it comes from Spock's home planet!
  • by badzilla (50355) <ultrak3wl@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:21AM (#41851673)

    The story has the words in the wrong order.

    Having last erupted about 1,300 years ago... That, however, is about to change.

    Fixed it for you.

  • I for one welcome the new lava monster overlords!

  • by cvtan (752695) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:38AM (#41851773)
    Puna Geothermal Ventures has been operating for decades. http://www.hawaiisenergyfuture.com/articles/Geothermal.html [hawaiisenergyfuture.com]
    Power from the geothermal plant is sold to Hawaii Electric at the same price as power from oil-fired sources.
    Oil and naphtha generated electric capacity has been increased so that power from wind/geothermal is not needed (this was a few years ago though).
    Geothermal power has been unreliable with many mechanical problems. There are environmental issues: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/04/28/hawaii-residents-raise-serious-concerns-about-pgv-geothermal-energys-clean-energy-credentials/ [cleantechnica.com]
    • by biodata (1981610) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:17AM (#41852063)
      On the other hand, Iceland generates all its power from geothermal and hydro AFAIR, and has no oil or naptha power (whatever that is). I think there might be an issue with who does it rather than the underlying technology. Incidentally, Iceland has also sent top bankers to jail for fraud over the financial crisis, and recently come out of recession and into positive growth with reducing unemployment. I think they just do things differently.
      • It's not so much who does it, it's that the entire country lives on top of their geothermal station.

        If they get it wrong, the entire country goes away.

        If they get it wrong in Oregon, well, that's a west coast problem.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Iceland also has 300,000 people which constitutes a small city in most places and their entire banking collapse could have been paid off by Bill Gates with plenty to spare.

        The really amazing thing is that when they hiked taxes and cut services people thought it was the right move rather than rioting in the streets.

        Don't compare Apples to portions of oranges?

      • I'm confused by the naptha reference as well. It's one of the primary components for gasoline... So perhaps it's being used as a fancy word substitution.
      • I've been to the Newberry Crater--it is relatively remote as far as Pacific North West volcanoes go. It is in the eastern part of the state, far from any major population center. Most other volcanoes in the PNW are neither shield volcanoes nor are they remote--some, such as Mt. Rainer, are directly upstream from major population centers of the South Puget Sound area. Newberry is ideal for such a pilot project, although I'm sure some of the locals will disagree.

        Me, I'm all for it--we're killing ourselves bur

        • by riverat1 (1048260)

          Well Bend, Oregon is situated pretty much at the base of the Newberry shield volcano less than 30 miles north of the crater. The population of the metro area is ~170,000. Eugene, Oregon is only 90-100 miles west, metro area population ~ 350,000.

          I used to live in Bend and have been all over Newberry. I've explored most of the lave tube caves around the base. Up in the crater there's a large obsidian flow that just dazzles you on a sunny day. If you're into the outdoors the whole area is pretty spectacu

    • From one of the images in the article:

      Next Generation Geothermal
      Enhanced Geothermal Systems can produce energy from previously unusable sites. Unlike conventional geothermal, which relies on locating subterranean reservoirs of heated water, this technology uses hot, dry basement rock to heat water in artificially created reservoirs. Most water pumped out is returned in this closed-loop system.

  • Sounds like something out of a 007 movie

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:07AM (#41851965)

    What they need to do is get rid of the volcano by filling it up with cement and then build a nuclear power plant on top of it.

    • Isn't a geothermal plant, by definition, a nuclear power plant? (Earth's core is heated by nuclear decay)
      • by gman003 (1693318)

        All power except for one is nuclear.

        Solar? What is the sun but a giant thermonuclear reactor in the sky?

        Wind? That's just tapping into the energy flow caused by the sun unevenly heating the Earth, and solar is nuclear. Same for hydroelectric - the sun drives the water cycle they exploit.

        So are biofuel, oil, coal, gas, anything coming from dead plants or animals, no matter how long they've been dead. Plants get energy from the GTNRITS, and we get energy from them. Hell, it doesn't even have to be dead - the

  • famous last words to choose from.... aaaargh!
  • In other news the CEO of Verticon Industries, Dr Evil assures us there's nothing to worry about.
  • by Quila (201335) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:40AM (#41852277)

    Having successfully negotiated the challenging regulatory slopes of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a host of Oregon state agencies

    And they wonder why it's still a pipe dream. You have to go through this even for a "green" power source.

    • Hey it's not all bad.
      "The DOE has granted over US$20 million to the project"

      I wonder why they have to go through both the BLM and the FS.

      • by Type44Q (1233630)

        I wonder why they have to go through both the BLM and the FS.

        In the National Forest, the Forest Service administers the land above the ground and the Bureau of Land Management administers it below ground (mineral rights, etc).

        • BLM runs the both land and what's beneath it for all public land. NFS comes in when that land is labeled as a national forest. There's duplication, and the two aren't even in the dame department.

          I'm surprised they didn't have to get approval from the Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies. They probably did, just not mentioned in the article.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Politicians in California had to be threatened wih political death before they backed off much of the costly, time-consuming regulatory bullshit in the way of new electric plants.

            Let that be a lesson for the cumulative weight of piecemeil-that-sounds-good ideas adding up to grind things to a halt. You don't need a corrupt system of government officials for government to end up in the same place -- smashed economy because nobody can do anything without permission.

      • by Creepy (93888)

        Not bad - that's 20 million more than they've invested in molten salt reactors since the mid 1970s when they shut the MSRE down after a successful 6 year run (generating power for over 5 of the 6 years, and that mainly because they shut it off over the weekends). The funny thing is, the reason they chose the IFR as number 1 is because of its fast refueling cycle and fast doubling time (breeding), but what they found out is they couldn't make it both safe and economical (only 2 of the three requirements coul

  • Does anybody know the projected steady-state water consumption rate when running in production? From the report on the test plan [newberrygeothermal.com], it looks like they are assuming (rather optimistically) a 2% leak in the in-ground flow, but it is unclear to me what the evaporative loss would be during a production run rather than a test.
  • AltaRock will dig too greedily and too deep. You know what they will awaken in the darkness of Newberry.. shadow and flame.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.

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