Aug 7, 2012

Are Volcanos the New Source of Geothermal Energy?

Admin
3 min
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Here's a scary thought: scientists are testing the idea of pumping water into the sides of a dormant volcano in Oregon at pressures great enough to evoke small earthquakes. Why? Apparently, the boiling bowels beneath our feet hold tremendous promise for geothermal energy.

According to a report MIT submitted to the Department of Energy, two percent of the heat some six miles below the ground could provide 2,500 times as much energy as the country currently uses. By employing a technique called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), several million gallons of water are blasted at high pressures through artificial wells over 10,000 feet deep. When the water reaches the hot rocks, it returns to the surface through a second well as scalding hot water, where its heat can then be harvested for power.

Backed by the DOE, Google and others, AltaRock Energy and Davenport Newberry Holdings have been exploring ways to tap geothermal energy from the Pacific Northwest volcano, and will put their knowledge to the test this summer at Oregon's Newberry Volcano.

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

Over the last century, engineers have been tapping the heat in the earth's crust for power by gathering hot water or steam bubbling near the surface to spin turbines that create electricity. Places with hot rocks lacking cracks or water to deliver the stream is the new frontier. That's where EGS comes into play.

“Hydrofracking” versus “Hydroshearing”

By drilling deep into the rocks where water is then pumped in, steam can be drawn out, a process known as hydroshearing. Though it sounds similar to hydrofracking, scientists claim that the technique used in this scenario is entirely different, which will not pollute groundwater with toxic chemicals.

But what about triggering earthquakes? The effects of pumping the water deep into the ground will be measured using sensors that will provide microseismicity data to scientists to ensure that the water is getting the right exposure and not triggering seismic activity. Fracking, on the hand, pumps wastewater deep underground, which has likely led to recent earthquakes in Arkansas and Ohio.

The team working on the project will be closely monitoring earthquake activity around sites like Newberry. Furthermore, a new international protocol came out earlier this year urging EGS developers to keep projects out of urban areas, while being upfront with local residents so they know what is going on.

The prospect of a major quake at Newberry is very low, according to Ernie Majer, a seismologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. No significant faults exist in the area and it is far enough from population centers to make damages highly unlikely. The layers of volcanic ash built up over the millennia hinder any shaking.

"That's the $64,000 question," Majer said to the Huffington Post. "What's the biggest earthquake we can have from induced seismicity that the public can worry about."

Still, EGS is attractive, because unlike wind and solar, geothermal power is not dependent on weather conditions and it could significantly expand the potential of clean energy in the US. Although natural geothermal resources only account for about 0.3 percent of total US electricity production, MIT predicts that EGS could bump that number up to 10 percent within the next 50 years at prices competitive with fossil-fuels.

From there, the potential is even greater. Throughout the West, where hot rocks are especially close to the surface, geothermal could provide half the country's electricity, according to a 2008 USGS assessment.

"The important question we need to answer now," said Colin Williams, the USGS geophysicist who compiled the assessment, "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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Jun 25, 2021

UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC

climatechange
Energy
Netzero
UK
Dominic Ellis
5 min
The UK must put an end to a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices warns the Climate Change Committee

The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.

While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.

"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."

The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.

  • Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
     
  • Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
     
  • Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
     
  • Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
     
  • Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.

In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies. 

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society. 

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."

Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).

Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.

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