Saturday, September 5, 2009
Google's Geothermal Adventure Failed
AltaRock Energy Inc, which is the start-up company backed by ICT giant Google, suspended Wednesday's drilling of its first geothermal well in California - the first test project ever. The company gave the reason for geologic anomalies. In addition, it stated that it will keep developing its Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technology and is evaluating alternative well locations, EurActiv.sk/Reuters informs.
Although there is only a limited public information related to AltaRock Energy's demonstration project, we consider their case as a characteristic set of obstacles in deep geothermal sources utilization namely in EGS. This is a consequence of current state-of-the-art in reservoir stimulation or deep drilling. These technologies, mainly for the stimulation, are relatively untested in comparison to standard drilling techniques.
The question of reservoir stimulation is topical, because in depths more that 4 kilometers is the rock rather solid and natural fractures are rare. Our projection is that using traditional methods for reservoir creation, as we know them today in depths more than 5-6 km, the possible earthquake impact to the surface is lower in comparison to the same techniques used in 3 km. But what is more important, current technologies do not deterministically create the exchanger area, we are not able to develop it in projected way and we rely on the local unknown geological conditions, randomly created fractures and subsequent testes only.
We see the opportunity for the future in more radical innovations, because current “evolutionary” approach in research and development in this field is too slow and still not bringing acceptable results. The development of a quite new technology that will enable to create a reservoir using predictable engineering methods is needed. One of the most important parameter in this mission is to be able to create a fractures without unwanted side-effects like earthquakes. For example, company Geothermal Anywhere has in own research the technology that is able to create projected net of narrow fractures/tubes. "The target is to develop something like a giant underground radiator able to exchange the heat energy comparable to the traditional hydrothermal systems in Geysers or Island. Such technology is able to radically shift the geothermal energy segment to real utilization worldwide," says Mr. Igor Kocis.