By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
A new drill that uses super-hot water to cut through rock could help make geothermal energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
To understand the new drill, you must first understand how geothermal energy is currently produced.
Here's how it works: Technicians drill deep into the Earth, where rock temperatures can reach more than 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and pump water into the hole. The water fractures the underground rock, allowing it to circulate, heat up and return to the surface. That hot water is then used to drive turbines and produce electricity.
Potter's drill uses the rapid application of heat -- instead of mechanical abrasion -- to break rock apart. Because certain types of hard rock, such as quartz, do not expand uniformly when they get hot, the heat causes them stress that breaks them apart. In a unique twist on what is called "hydrothermal spallation," the Potter drill uses water, not air.
Geothermal energy is seen as clean and plentiful, but tapping it efficiently has been a concern.
According to research (.pdf) by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tapping 2 percent of potential "enhanced geothermal systems" between three and 10 kilometers below the surface of the continental United States could supply more than 2,500 times the country's total annual energy use.
Several nations, including Germany and Australia, generate power through geothermal projects. Geothermal power plants are more productive than plants using fossil fuels, and are attractive as "baseload," 'round-the-clock energy sources that help smooth a portfolio full of inconsistent wind and solar sources.
One downside to Potter's drill? It requires some fossil fuels to initially heat the water.
One upside? There's no drill bit to replace, allowing for much faster progress.
Potter plans to conduct preliminary tests with the drill in the field in August, attempting a four-inch-diameter hole at a depth of 1,000 feet. The trial run will be funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Eventually, the company wants to drill some six miles into the Earth.
Google's interest, by the way? Its philanthropic arm named EGS as a promising alternative energy source.
Here's a brief video by Google.org on the subject:
May 23, 2010
Appears that frakking is a risk in that it creates seismic activity. It also is causing watersheds and water table contamination. Sometimes you just have to say, oops!
Not only is it not a minor component, fusion in any form is not a component at all. There is not one SINGLE shred, not one iota of evidence that ANY fusion takes place naturally, ANYWHERE on earth. Fusion cannot take place anywhere on earth for two simple reasons. There is no hydrogen to fuse in the Earth's core, only much heaver metals. For fusion to occur, the mass of these metals would have to be orders of magnitude greater to create the pressures necessary. Even Jupiter, which makes up 99 percent of the mass of all the planets in the solar system and has many hundreds of times Earth's gravitational pull, does not have sufficient size or pressure to reach critical mass for fusion to take place. Even in the hottest stars, these metals DO NOT fuse except under the most extraordinary of circumstance, i.e when the start explodes in a a super nova. I can assure you such a violent event is not occurring inside the Earth. Even if the Earth's core DID contain enough mass, it does not have anywhere near the heat necessary. Your unsubstantiated statements about cold fusion notwithstanding, heat energy is required for fusion to occur. The Earth's core, which is only 20,000 degrees Kelvin, does not have the necessary heat. Several million degrees Kelvin is required for fusion. Cold fusion does NOT help you. First, there is NO evidence that cold fusion has EVER occurred. It certainly has not been reliably replicated, a NECESSITY for scientific verification. More importantly, even if it did, all cold fusion experiments claim to be fusing hydrogen, not nickel and iron. Even using the most optimistic cold fusion "equations", the heat necessary to fuse these metals just does not exist in the Earth's core.
Not to nitpick, but, for the early poster who was worried that this might result in the loss of Earths magnetic field, I have bad news. the Earth regularly reverses magnetic fields. For the interim, roughly 5,000 years every 100,000 years or so, there is no magnetic field. We are about there in time, and there is some evidence of the magnetic field weakening. This would mean more and more EMI from space. For the cooling effect, the crust IS cooling. The result is that the crust slowly thickens. The current depth of the crust is from 1/2 Mile thick in the deepest parts of the ocean, and at the plate boundaries (upwelling), to about 10 Miles (16 Kilometers) or even more on the continents. Yes, the current rate of cooling will increase, but not by much, and even so, with over 2,000 mile to go before you get to the outer core, it would take more time than the remaining life of the Sun to get there. So, I wouldn't worry about that. For the posters who pointed out that the heat generation inside the Earth is fission, there is a minor fusion component. It is somewhat related to "cold fusion". but it is a very minor component. Less than the radioactive decay by orders of magnitude. So, technically, the original post was correct, but still not important.
Lol, impeccable. Thats what I love about this 'place'. Lessons for everyone, and never a dull moment... Peace
HexHammer67 Was I supposed to? I mean, you DID categorize it as only at sea level :) Anyway, since you can't edit posts, I may as well point out that a clause got deleted in the middle of mine. It is not the magnetic bubbles that get stripped, but rather first the electrons, and then the generated ions, by the unbuffered solar wind. I tink both our points are the same, though, that ShortyStuff is ignorant to the point of irresponsibility.
But thats what you get when you try to dumb down your reply so you dont get accused of being arrogant and condescending. My wording was carefully chosen as their target obviously wouldnt understand EMF, charged-particle physics etc. I did notice you didnt pick holes in my description of atmosphere weighing 14lb per square inch, which is spectacularly inaccurate from a physicist's point of view but never mind. ;o) Peace
Geothermal Problems One, you need an available water source. Lots of it. Two, you need permission to build it in the first place. Simple, no? Actually no, it's not simple. The second issue is the worse one. When the locals find out what kind of nasty by products this type of power plant produces you'll re run out of town on a rail. NIMBY indeed! Highly toxic, highly corrosive stuff gets brought up from out of the earth with the heated steam. This is why the workers are clean shaven, so they can quickly don respirators, and why the plant looks to be a century old after a few years running. Converting an existing plant to geothermal would require probably a double loop of heat exchangers in order to isolate a system not designed to tolerate the corrosive nature of this steam. Am I a nay sayer? No not really. I just believe in the words of the old time radio comedian, Fred Allen. "Everything is more complicated than anyone knows."
aside from the costs involved in drilling, which it might be possible to greatly reduce with the methods and apparatus described in the article, is that the areas in which the heat which powers the process is, by definition, most easily accessible lie in tectonically unstable regions. Not so cool if drilling for the local power plant causes an earthquake, as in Basel some three years ago ! Here a link to a brief Scientific American article (http://preview.tinyurl.com/nls8dp ) which discusses the problem.... Henri
But only partly. That is the danger of ignorance. When masked in a patina of fact, it allows the rest of the ignorance to sneak past normal reality distortion detectors. To wit: "That's uther non-sense. Earth's athmospere is retained by Earth's gravity alone. Nothing else." A similar statement was made by HexHammer67 This is not so. In fact, as elctro later pointed out, the magnetic field helps protect the Earth from the solar wind. This same solar wind is greatly responsible for the phenomenon of atmospheric stripping, It is though that charged atmospheric particles get trapped in what are essentially magnetic bubbles, which are then struck by particles in the solar wind, and accelerated to escape velocity. It is this phenomenon that is believed to have lead to Mars' loss of atmosphere. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_wind That said, the rest of his or her post is patently ridiculous to the point of being idiotic. Denying global warming science is bad enough, but then presenting "facts" based on bogus numbers, like the idea that using geothermal will cool the core to its freezing point is not only moronic, it is pathetic, since this is not a matter of opinion, but an easily calculable phenomenon. In fact, the heat loss from such a venture would not have ANY noticeable effect for millions of years. That said, some of Shorty's detractors need to check their science as well. Sorry, HexHammer 67, but your statement, "If our planets[sic] core was solid, it'd probably have a bigger field," is completly false. First, our planet's core IS solid. In fact, it has a density that of solid steel. It is surrounded by an outer core of liquid metal. And the Earth's magnetic field DOES come about due to the rotation of the core, which is essentially acting as a dynamo. Magnetic fields arise from MOVING electric currents, and vice versa. The field is generated from the AC dynamo created by the solid core spinning in a liquid metal sea. And also, bromiki, it is incorrect that the heat from the core comes from nuclear fusion. The heat from the core comes from four sources: 1) original heat: residual heat from the formation of the solar system, 2) gravitational heat: heat generated as the spinning Earth acts as s centrifuge, causing materials of different densities to migrate throughout the system 3) latent heat from the cooling and solidifying of the core, 4) nuclear FISSION. This is the primary source of heat, probably over 90%, originating from the radioactive decay of sources like the abundant Potassium 40, Uranium 238, 235, and Thorium 232 contained within the mantle. This is not the same as fusion, which powers the sun, whereby lighter atoms like hydrogen fuse to become heavier elements like helium. But again, the anti-global warming stuff is bunk.
You say that if the Earth's magnetic ever collapse or disapears, that would mean the loss of Earth's athmosphere. That's uther non-sense. Earth's athmospere is retained by Earth's gravity alone. Nothing else. The magnetic field only protect us from the solar wind's charged particles: electrons and ionised hydrogen, helium, oxygen and nithogen. Even without the magnetic field, all of those particles will be stopped way up there in the upper stratosphere, between 60Km and 100Km over your head. That's exactly what appens dusing the auroraes bodealis and australis. As others have said, Earth's core continualy produce heat. The deepth of any drilling is uterly negligeable compared to Earth's radius. The thicker part of Earth's crust is, relatively, much thinner than the peel from an apple. It would take a few millions of years of massive use of geothermal energy to even begin to cool down the mantle, let alone Earth's core.
We certainly know the stuff you're short on: the facts. The profoundness of your ignorance is nothing short of staggering. First, the heat loss from the mantle to the surface would take literally millions of years before we could see ANY MEASURABLE EFFECT. Second, the earth's core generates heat through nuclear fusion. There is no reason to believe this would stop or slow down due to a cooling of the earth's crust. Third, they are planning to drill to about 4 km. That's roughly 2.5 miles. The rock doesn't even begin to melt until you're over 650 km deep, and remains partially solid until you're 2,900 km deep. BTW, do you really think that 400 degree rock is "molten"? Fourth, do you have a solution to provide the energy we need without "destroying the planet"? Fifth, you ignore the overwhelming majority of climate scientists and insist that the people you call "global warming nutjobs" are destroying the planet. Willful ignorance is stupid. The good news is that ignorance can be educated; but stupid is forever. http://www.visionlearning.com/library/module_viewer.php?mid=69
The profoundness of your ignorance is nothing short of staggering. First, the heat loss from the mantle to the surface would take literally millions of years before we could see ANY MEASURABLE EFFECT. Second, the earth's core regenerates heat through nuclear fusion. There is no reason to believe this would stop or slow down due to a cooling of the earth's mantle. Third, you - ignoring the overwhelming majority of climate scientists - insist that the people you call "global warming nutjobs" are destroying the planet? Fourth, do you have a better solution to provide the energy we all agree we need? Who is the nutjob again?
Planetary core energy loss due to geothermal energy mining = destroying the planet. That is a very irrational statement. The benefits of geothermal mining are very great. A) mines could be placed next to existing power stations, allowing them to be converted from fossil fuels (coal and gas) to geothermal. B) Preexisting oil wells in the North East that have been depleted of oil and capped years ago could be utilized as a "jump start" to drilling geothermal wells and building new power plants on site. The NE is one of the greatest consumers of energy in the US. C) Geothermal is a excellent choice over nuclear energy, no nuclear waste. I'm not opposed to Solar, Wind or Tital energy generation. I'm all for them. But I also realize we need a blended energy solution that can work 24/7/365. Fossil fuels are needed in the equation, too. But I'd like to see fossil fuels down below 5%. Ideally, we'd use methane (natural gas) for home heating, cooking and transportation applications. Remember, it took us 100 years to get here and I expect it'll take another 40-50 years to get out of the fossil fuel mess. Potter drilling is just ONE means to that end. How much energy does the Earth core contains? More energy than you can imagine and more that you can actually calculate, unless you're good at Calculus and know dozens of variables involving all sources of global energy generation and depletion. I suspect you had no idea that inside the Earth's crust are billions of tons of radio isotopes that release energy as they break down and decay (this is natural nuclear energy at it's best). See these article directly on the subject: http://www.our-energy.com/geothermal_energy.html http://www.popsci.com/stuart-fox/article/2008-09/could-tapping-planet-geothermal-energy-cool-earth%E2%80%99s-core
Agreed about solar and tidal energy being more sustainable than fossil, but - ever heard of a little thing called Tectonics? Its a process by which the surface of the planet is drawn into the core through giant cracks, and new surface is formed by molten rock being pushed out. Considering that most of these fault lines are under water, and water is taken in with the rock and expelled through geothermal vents - like Yellowstone Park - and have been doing so since, well, long before us, I'm not worried about the impact we're likely to have compared to grubbing in the ground looking for things to burn. Theres also a thing called the Curie Point, which is the temperature at which specific metals lose their ability to sustain a magnetic field. The core of the planet exceeds this temperature many, many times - so it should be obvious that it doesnt work that way. If our planets core was solid, it'd probably have a bigger field in fact. Air is not a metal, funnily enough, and as such is paramagnetic - it does not react to a magnetic field. It does however react to gravity. Our atmosphere weighs an astounding 14lb per square inch at sea level, its not going anywhere fast. You'd have us carry on filling it up with CO2 and make it even heavier? Peace.
to ShortyStuff --"This will eventually cause the Earth's core to become solid" -- maybe -- in about 50 thousand years
All you global warming nutjobs are going to end up destroying the planet in the name of saving the planet. By doing this you are slowly cooling the Earth's core. This will eventually cause the Earth's core to become solid, which will in turn cause the loss of the magnetic field, which will in turn cause the loss of our atmosphere. It would probably take thousands of years, but it would be the ultimate result. You should be thinking of ways to utilize energy that should be available for millions of years instead, such as solar and tidal. Don't destroy the Earth in the name of protecting it.
Exciting potential grounded in technology that we have today...www.starpeakenergy.com might be a great match up with much of the power generation equipment and wells already installed...