Sunday, March 18, 2012

Igor Kocis: We found conceptual solutions of current ultra deep drilling technologies' limits

Igor Kocis is one of the members of Geothermania's team. But at the same time, he is the member of the Board at AGEO - Agency for Geothermal Power Engeneering as well as co-founder and CEO at GA Drilling, Slovak-based technology company focusing on technologies of ultra deep drilling.

Geothermania's Igor and Michal talk about the research and development of PLASMABIT deep drilling system and briefly about the renewable energy sources in Slovak context.

In January 2010 Geothermal Anywhere and our partners have been granted by EUR 2.64 mil. from the EU Structural Fund in order to do research and development of a new deep drilling method . Igor, let's summarize, why this concept does not have an equivalent in the whole world, in what ways is it so unique and on what do the supported grants focus?

The uniqueness of the new deep drilling concept is in several points:
  1. We have approached the solution in a non-traditional way. We took a look at the whole field from outside of the traditional “drilling“ community. But we are continually in contact and communicate with the expert community and hence confirm the correctness of our approaches, methods and technologies.
  2. We did not solve the problem „symptomatically“. In other words, we did not only try to solve the shortcomings of the existing technologies, but we also approached to solve the particular reasons due to which the current technologies are ineffective if we are talking about ultra-deep drilling deeper than 6 kilometers. I have to say that we are quite successful – for the particular shortcomings of the current technologies we have found conceptual solutions.
  3. We build upon professional experts and in each technological as well as project line we put together teams of the best experts, including those from abroad.
  4. In every technological aspect we assess the broadest spectrum of possible technologies. PLASMABIT consists of the most suitable available partial solutions, which we have selected according to very strict criteria.
The supported grants predominantly focus on technological components of PLASMABIT, especially for the very process of drilling, its energy supply and managing.
  • A lot of people say that Slovakia has a big geothermal potential. According to your opinion, why does not Slovakia take advantage of it to the degree that it actually could?
Slovakia has a geothermal potential particularly for heating with hot geothermal water. The heating does not require very high temperatures. The geological conditions in Slovakia are suitable in the sense that we do not need to create engineered water loops because geothermal heated water is present under the surface naturally. On the other hand, for generating electric energy a higher degree of temperature is needed and with the current technologies we are not able to do this kind of drilling in Slovakia; at least not to the extent that we would be able to generate electric power with relative efficiency. Therefore we also try to develop such an approach that would allow us to drill into deeper depths, where we could reach sufficient temperatures also for constructing geothermal power plants, not only heating stations.
  • This supposed to mean that anywhere in Slovakia or in the world in sufficient depths, irrespective of geological conditions, there is heat, which is big enough to run a geothermal power plant. I am right?
Yes you are. This knowledge motivated us to develop a technology for ultra-deep drilling which would be cost and time effective. Irrespective of geological conditions, if we are able to drill a geothermal well deep 6-10 km, it will be possible to reach temperatures, which allow us to build geothermal plants with standard turbines. That also means that we will save CO2 emissions, because geothermal heat will replace gas or coal as a “fuel”. At the same time, geothermal energy unlike nuclear one has the advantage that it is not surrounded by controversies and bad experiences from the past. Compared to other renewable sources as wind or solar energy, geothermal is able to supply a guaranteed amount of energy into the network constantly without amplitudes or dropouts – its availability is statistically 97%, which gives it a great advantage over other renewable energy sources.
  • How would you in general characterize the status of renewable sources in Slovakia? Do you think that Slovakia will reach targets until 2020 to produce 40% of its electricity from renewable sources and in general 20% of all the energies from these sources?
Renewable sources in Slovakia are mainly represented by hydro plants, which are difficult to expand at present times. Photovoltaic is becoming more popular, but from an energy stability perspective it is not an effective solution. Wind plants received a red light in Slovakia due to their character, devastation of the scenery, high share of protected areas in Slovakia and ultimately also due to the necessity to back them up with power plants, which use traditional fossil and nuclear energy sources.

As for reaching the target in the field of renewable sources, I think that it is a too ambitious challenge. Reaching the target will be a problem for even more developed economies than the Slovak one. Therefore I think that the target in the horizon of year 2020 is not fully attainable. I claim this despite the fact that European Commission announced in its forecast that all EU member states are on a good way to fulfill obligations in regards of renewable energy by 2020.
  • Let’s return to our PLASMABIT system. It has been developed in order to strengthen the position of geothermal energy in fact. On the other hand, geothermal and hydrocarbon drilling procedures are generally similar and face analogical problems. Well, aren't you afraid that what we are developing for the segment of renewable energy sources could ultimately strengthen hydrocarbons at the expense of renewables?
Quite the contrary. Firstly, newly discovered deep oil and gas fields, which will be available thanks to the deep drilling methods are a highly ecological alternative to the developing extraction of hydrocarbons for example in surface sand fields in Canada or protected areas in U.S. Secondly, and this is decisive, oil and gas companies are currently among the biggest investors into green technologies and green energy. If these giants want to make big profits also in the upcoming decades and they understand the exhaustibility of fossil fuels as well as their harmfulness for the climate, they are searching for other energy resources too. From their perspective, geothermal energy represents one of the unexploited sources.

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