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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy


Steam rising from the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Iceland.
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Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, from volcanic activity, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface.
From hot springs, geothermal energy has been used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since ancient Roman times, but it is now better known for electricity generation. Worldwide, about 10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power is online in 24 countries. An additional 28 gigawatts of direct geothermal heating capacity is installed for district heating, space heating, spas, industrial processes, desalination and agricultural applications.[1]
Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly,[2] but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technological advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help mitigate global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels.

History

History

The oldest known pool fed by a hot spring, built in the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century BC.
Hot springs have been used for bathing at least since paleolithic times.[32] The oldest known spa is a stone pool on China’s Lisan mountain built in the Qin dynasty in the 3rd century BC, at the same site where the Huaqing Chi palace was later built. In the first century AD, Romans conquered Aquae Sulis, now Bath, Somerset, England, and used the hot springs there to feed public baths and underfloor heating. The admission fees for these baths probably represent the first commercial use of geothermal power. The world's oldest geothermal district heating system in Chaudes-Aigues, France, has been operating since the 14th century.[15] The earliest industrial exploitation began in 1827 with the use of geyser steam to extract boric acid from volcanic mud in Larderello, Italy.
In 1892, America's first district heating system in Boise, Idaho was powered directly by geothermal energy, and was copied in Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1900. A deep geothermal well was used to heat greenhouses in Boise in 1926, and geysers were used to heat greenhouses in Iceland and Tuscany at about the same time.[33] Charlie Lieb developed the first downhole heat exchanger in 1930 to heat his house. Steam and hot water from geysers began heating homes in Iceland starting in 1943.
Global geothermal electric capacity. Upper red line is installed capacity;[19] lower green line is realized production.[1]
In the 20th century, demand for electricity led to the consideration of geothermal power as a generating source. Prince Piero Ginori Conti tested the first geothermal power generator on 4 July 1904, at the same Larderello dry steam field where geothermal acid extraction began. It successfully lit four light bulbs.[34] Later, in 1911, the world's first commercial geothermal power plant was built there. It was the world's only industrial producer of geothermal electricity until New Zealand built a plant in 1958.

Electricity


Electricity

The International Geothermal Association (IGA) has reported that 10,715 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power in 24 countries is online, which is expected to generate 67,246 GWh of electricity in 2010.[3] This represents a 20% increase in online capacity since 2005. IGA projects growth to 18,500 MW by 2015, due to the projects presently under consideration, often in areas previously assumed to have little exploitable resource.[3]
In 2010, the United States led the world in geothermal electricity production with 3,086 MW of installed capacity from 77 power plants.[4] The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California.[5] The Philippines is the second highest producer, with 1,904 MW of capacity online. Geothermal power makes up approximately 18% of the country's electricity generation.[4]
Geothermal electric plants were traditionally built exclusively on the edges of tectonic plates where high temperature geothermal resources are available near the surface. The development of binary cycle power plants and improvements in drilling and extraction technology enable enhanced geothermal systems over a much greater geographical range.[6] Demonstration projects are operational in Landau-Pfalz, Germany, and Soultz-sous-ForĂȘts, France, while an earlier effort in Basel, Switzerland was shut down after it triggered earthquakes. Other demonstration projects are under construction in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America

Environmental effects

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Environmental effects

Geothermal power station in the Philippines
Krafla Geothermal Station in northeast Iceland
Fluids drawn from the deep earth carry a mixture of gases, notably carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), methane (CH4) and ammonia (NH3). These pollutants contribute to global warming, acid rain, and noxious smells if released. Existing geothermal electric plants emit an average of 122 kilograms (269 lb) of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MW·h) of electricity, a small fraction of the emission intensity of conventional fossil fuel plants.[13] Plants that experience high levels of acids and volatile chemicals are usually equipped with emission-control systems to reduce the exhaust.
In addition to dissolved gases, hot water from geothermal sources may hold in solution trace amounts of toxic chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, boron, and antimony.[14] These chemicals precipitate as the water cools, and can cause environmental damage if released. The modern practice of injecting cooled geothermal fluids back into the Earth to stimulate production has the side benefit of reducing this environmental risk.
Direct geothermal heating systems contain pumps and compressors, which may consume energy from a polluting source. This parasitic load is normally a fraction of the heat output, so it is always less polluting than electric heating. However, if the electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, then the net emissions of geothermal heating may be comparable to directly burning the fuel for heat. For example, a geothermal heat pump powered by electricity from a combined cycle natural gas plant would produce about as much pollution as a natural gas condensing furnace of the same size.[11] Therefore the environmental value of direct geothermal heating applications is highly dependent on the emissions intensity of the neighboring electric grid.

Economics

Economics

Geothermal power requires no fuel (except for pumps), and is therefore immune to fuel cost fluctuations, but capital costs are significant. Drilling accounts for over half the costs, and exploration of deep resources entails significant risks. A typical well doublet (extraction and injection wells) in Nevada can support 4.5 megawatts (MW) and costs about $10 million to drill, with a 20% failure rate.[18]
In total, electrical plant construction and well drilling cost about 2-5 million € per MW of electrical capacity, while the break–even price is 0.04-0.10 € per kW·h.[19] Enhanced geothermal systems tend to be on the high side of these ranges, with capital costs above $4 million per MW and break–even above $0.054 per kW·h in 2007.[20] Direct heating applications can use much shallower wells with lower temperatures, so smaller systems with lower costs and risks are feasible. Residential geothermal heat pumps with a capacity of 10 kilowatt (kW) are routinely installed for around $1–3,000 per kilowatt. District heating systems may benefit from economies of scale if demand is geographically dense, as in cities, but otherwise piping installation dominates capital costs. The capital cost of one such district heating system in Bavaria was estimated at somewhat over 1 million € per MW.[21] Direct systems of any size are much simpler than electric generators and have lower maintenance costs per kW·h, but they must consume electricity to run pumps and compressors. Some governments subsidize geothermal projects.
Geothermal power is highly scalable: from a rural village to an entire city.[22]
Chevron Corporation is the world's largest private geothermal electricity producer.[23] The most developed geothermal field is the Geysers in California.

Resources

Resources

Enhanced geothermal system 1:Reservoir 2:Pump house 3:Heat exchanger 4:Turbine hall 5:Production well 6:Injection well 7:Hot water to district heating 8:Porous sediments 9:Observation well 10:Crystalline bedrock
The Earth's internal thermal energy flows to the surface by conduction at a rate of 44.2 terawatts (TW),[24] and is replenished by radioactive decay of minerals at a rate of 30 TW.[25] These power rates are more than double humanity’s current energy consumption from all primary sources, but most of this energy flow is not recoverable. In addition to the internal heat flows, the top layer of the surface to a depth of 10 meters (33 ft) is heated by solar energy during the summer, and releases that energy and cools during the winter.
Outside of the seasonal variations, the geothermal gradient of temperatures through the crust is 25–30 °C (45–54 °F) per kilometer of depth in most of the world. The conductive heat flux averages 0.1 MW/km2. These values are much higher near tectonic plate boundaries where the crust is thinner. They may be further augmented by fluid circulation, either through magma conduits, hot springs, hydrothermal circulation or a combination of these.
A geothermal heat pump can extract enough heat from shallow ground anywhere in the world to provide home heating, but industrial applications need the higher temperatures of deep resources.[15] The thermal efficiency and profitability of electricity generation is particularly sensitive to temperature. The more demanding applications receive the greatest benefit from a high natural heat flux, ideally from using a hot spring. The next best option is to drill a well into a hot aquifer. If no adequate aquifer is available, an artificial one may be built by injecting water to hydraulically fracture the bedrock. This last approach is called hot dry rock geothermal energy in Europe, or enhanced geothermal systems in North America. Much greater potential may be available from this approach than from conventional tapping of natural aquifers.[6]
Estimates of the potential for electricity generation from geothermal energy vary sixfold, from .035to2TW depending on the scale of investments.[1] Upper estimates of geothermal resources assume enhanced geothermal wells as deep as 10 kilometres (6 mi), whereas existing geothermal wells are rarely more than 3 kilometres (2 mi) deepWells of this depth are now common in the petroleum industry. The deepest research well in the world, the Kola superdeep borehole, is 12 kilometres (7 mi) deep This record has recently been imitated by commercial oil wells, such as Exxon's Z-12 well in the Chayvo field, Sakhalin.

Depletion

Depletion

Electricity Generation at Poihipi, New Zealand.
Electricity Generation at Ohaaki, New Zealand.
Electricity Generation at Wairakei, New Zealand.
Falling electricity production may be boosted through drilling additional supply boreholes, as at Poihipi and Ohaaki. The Wairakei power station has been running much longer, with its first unit commissioned in November 1958, and it attained its peak generation of 173MW in 1965, but already the supply of high-pressure steam was faltering, in 1982 being derated to intermediate pressure and the station managing 157MW. At the turn of the century it was managing about 150MW, then in 2005 two 8MW isopentane systems were added, boosting the station's output by about 14MW. Detailed data are unavailable, being lost due to re-organisations. One such re-organisation in 1996 causes the absence of early data for Poihipi (started 1996), and the gap in 1996/7 for Wairakei and Ohaaki; half-hourly data for Ohaaki's first few months of operation are also missing, as well as for most of Wairakei's history.
Although the usual operation mode of a geothermal generator is steady at full possible power because the fuel is free, Poihipi's operation is constrained by limits on its steam consumption, switching on and off daily as shown by the plot's separation of high and low values. Because the temperature difference between the inlet and outlet of the heat engine is relatively low (as compared to fuel-heated working fluids), power production can be noticeably affected by small variations in temperature of the environmental aspect employed by the cooling unit, especially air-cooled units.