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Power Earth Hardware

Geothermal Power Advances 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the hot-rocks-level-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A group of geothermal power engineers have created three reservoirs from a single well in a place where none existed previously. This is a breakthrough for Enhanced Geothermal System technology — people who need power often can't choose a spot where there happens to be a geothermal reservoir, and EGS could allow us to create them where needed. 'Last fall, engineers pumped cold water into the ground, cracking open fissures in the deep rock, a process known as hydroshearing. They then sealed one reservoir from the other using a new technology. They injected ground-up recycled plastic bottles, which plugged up the cracks in one reservoir while millions of gallons of cold water were being pumped in to create another. Then the plastic diffused, leaving behind three reservoirs. ... The U.S. Department of Energy, which is covering half the $43.8 million cost of the Newberry project, says if the initial indications hold up, the Newberry project would mark the first time in the world that multiple geothermal reservoirs have been created on purpose from a single well in a new area.'"
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Geothermal Power Advances

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  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday January 13, 2013 @01:07AM (#42572433) Homepage Journal

    Geothermal energy has an enourmous potential to reduce those emissions. If the price is a some minor tremors in remote locations, it is worth it.

    Well, time to sacrifice some karma on the truth once again. The poster child for geothermal power in the USA is Calpine at The Geysers, near Calistoga CA. Near, in fact, old faithful, which is old but not particularly faithful. It is neither as regular nor as potent as it used to be.

    Neither are the vents at The Geysers, which is why they started injecting primary-treated sewage water (reports on how well-treated it is vary) into the ground in order to rebuild steam. This did have the desired effect, but it also had others, primarily increased seismicity. Indeed, many dollars have been paid out to people whose homes have been damaged by it. They are, you see, more than minor tremors on occasion. This is of course a minor location, so that part of the recipe is true enough anyhow.

    On top of that, however, there's the fact that the plant has been perpetually under production and over budget since its creation, in spite of the shit-pumping. So basically, you want to spend a lot of money to build mediocre power plants that have greater ecological impact than you think and which will never produce the amount of power they promise. None of this is a law of thermodynamics or anything, but look at the country we're talking about. This ain't Germany, we're talking about the USA. We could do it right, we have all the skills and all the materials, but we won't, because that's not how we do things. We do things in the way that produces that maximum amount of pork. That's why PG&E is blowing up gas lines in residential areas in California, it's not because they couldn't afford to fix them or didn't know they needed to be fixed but because someone could get a third yacht if they didn't fix them.

  • by _Ludwig (86077) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:50AM (#42572765) Journal

    Boring?! Long chemical names don’t inherently scare me (Calcium carbonate, sodium chloride, oh my!) but a lot of the shit on that list is pretty heinous. It’s telling that even a greenwashing industry shill site like Fracfocus can’t make their practices sound responsible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @03:32AM (#42572867)

    Newberry is a large dormant (and not very dormant at that) shield volcano in Central Oregon. It's known for it bimodal volcanism with runny basaltic andesite erupting from hundreds of small cinder cones on its sprawling flanks, and viscous silica rich rhyolite, obsidian, and ash prone to erupting from the central caldera. This bimodal (basalt and rhyolite) character is shared with older extinct volcanoes showing a clear age progression across Oregon's high lava plains to the east-southeast. Newberry is the youngest volcanic center in this physiographic province, with the most recent eruption having occurred a bit more than a thousand years ago. Small hot springs are frequently active along the shores of the two small caldera lakes.

    The rock at Newberry is hot at relatively shallow depths, which is why this area has long been considered for geothermal energy. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of existing groundwater, or at least the ground is not highly permeable, so it's necessary to pump in water and break up the rock a bit so water will flow easily. Well depths will be about 10,000 feet if I recall correctly, and the temperature at those depths will be about 285 degrees C.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:42AM (#42574213)

    Does anyone have any numbers on how many million years we can suck heat out of the ground before it becomes a problem?

    Sure. First of all, you need to realize that the major loss of heat from the mantle is via normal convection through the surface of the earth. But since AGW is heating up the atmosphere, that convection will be reduced, and the mantle will eventually heat up by the same amount as the atmosphere (although it will take a few millions of years to reach equilibrium). So lets say that AGW will heat up the atmosphere by 2C. So to have NO effect on the temperature of the earth, we could suck out the energy that would otherwise cause the Earth to warm up by 2C as well.

    The weight of the Earth is about 6e24 kg. It has a heat capacity of about 0.4 kJ/kg. So cooling it by 2C would be about 4.8e24kJ. In 2008, world wide energy use, from all sources, was about 500 exajoules, or 5e17kJ. So we could use geothermal energy for 100% of all of humanity's current energy consumption, for ten million years , just to offset global warming, and having no net effect.

    So worries about "cooling off the Earth" are a tad ridiculous.

  • by chmod a+x mojo (965286) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:58PM (#42578099)

    No, I'm not lying. They are not pumping a million+ gallons of any of the pure chemical listed. They are dilute in a water solution since water is "cheap". Even if some of those chemical manage to migrate to an aquifer the molecule count would most likely be in the parts per trillion, and that is assuming that chemical leeching and natural filtration didn't turn them into something harmless by the time they managed to get to the aquifer.

    As I said, you are more likely to find sulfides and arsenides that occur naturally.

    If every one of those chemicals is so dilute that it only makes up 1-2 parts per trillion, they would not have the effects that are listed beside them.

    That was the whole point... the chemicals MAY cause those effects in pure form, but the forms that you would see _if_ they migrated are going to be extremely diluted.

    Even someone with virtually no knowledge of chemistry whatsoever probably has a clue how much propylene glycol it takes to have an anti-freeze effect since they put it in their car.

    Most people are lucky to understand the difference in Octane rating of the fuel they put in their cars much less what Antifreeze is made from. The dealership takes care of all that messy stuff when they get their oil changed.

    I also didn't say anything about the sky falling or what the actual effects of fracking fluid might be. I simply showed that your claims that all those chemicals are harmless was a lie. Your response to my post demonstrates why you get modded as a troll.

    One, I never claimed anything upthread. You replied to my first post on the page. Two, can't be a lie... see point # one. And three, you might want to look again. There are plenty of mods that can understand satire and hyperbole, hence my comment standing at (score:3) as of this writing.

    Well there is four, your writing of "all those dangerous chemicals" makes you come off sounding scared and screaming the sky is falling. As I pointed out, there are quite a few worse things in our groundwater that naturally occur. That doesn't mean we should dump anything and everything in our aquifers; but using something that is harmful in highly pure concentrations doesn't automatically equal poisoning our drinking water supplies, especially since this is only a possibility situation.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern

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