Unlocking the Power of Superhot, Super Deep Geothermal Energy

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I’ve got some exciting news to share about the future of geothermal energy. Imagine tapping into the immense heat stored miles beneath our feet to power our world.

Sounds like science fiction? Well, it might soon become reality, thanks to some groundbreaking research!

The Breakthrough Model

Geothermal energy has always intrigued me, especially its potential to provide a steady, renewable power source. But we’re not talking about the typical geothermal systems you might be familiar with. This new research delves deep—literally—into the superhot rock miles below the Earth’s surface.

A recent study funded by Quaise Energy introduces a computer model that sheds light on what happens when fluids interact with rock at these extreme depths and temperatures.

The results? Fascinating!

Unlike the larger fractures created by current engineered geothermal systems (EGS), this model shows that microscopic cracks form a dense “cloud of permeability” throughout the rock. This could revolutionize how we harness geothermal energy.

superhot geothermal energy

Potential Power: Five to Ten Times More

Trenton Cladouhos, Vice President of Geothermal Resource Development at Quaise Energy, shared some eye-opening insights from the simulations.

The model predicts that superhot geothermal systems could produce five to ten times more power than today’s EGS for up to two decades.

That’s a game changer!

At the Geothermal Transition Summit, Trenton discussed the potential and challenges of extracting heat from rocks hotter than 707 degrees Fahrenheit (375°C). The supercritical water at these depths carries 3-4 times more energy than regular hot water and converts to electricity 2-3 times more efficiently.

Tapping a Massive Energy Source

Remember the 2006 MIT-led study, The Future of Geothermal Energy? It estimated that tapping just 2% of the thermal energy from hot rock 3 to 10 kilometers (2 to 6 miles) below the U.S. could meet the country’s energy needs 2,000 times over annually. That’s mind-blowing!

Overcoming the Drilling Challenge

Of course, reaching these depths is no small feat. Traditional drills from the oil and gas industry aren’t built to withstand such extreme conditions.

That’s where Quaise’s innovative approach comes in.

They’re developing new drilling technology using millimeter wave energy—similar to microwaves—that can melt and vaporize rock. Pretty cool, right?

Extracting the Heat

But drilling is only part of the challenge. Extracting the heat is another puzzle.

Cladouhos highlighted different approaches being developed globally, such as underground radiators or heat exchangers, but none have been tested at superhot temperatures above 200°C.

For geothermal to truly make a difference, we need to operate at temperatures over 375°C.

What’s Next?

So, what’s next? The model by Scott and colleagues, still being refined, will guide future field tests. Quaise plans to test these concepts at sites like Newberry Volcano in Oregon, where superhot conditions are more accessible.

Trenton’s takeaway? While the model is promising, real-world testing is crucial. The future of geothermal energy might involve a hybrid approach using planar fractures, natural fractures, and microfractures to connect wells.

Stay tuned, folks! The quest to unlock superhot geothermal energy is just beginning, and it’s looking incredibly promising.

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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