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Geo-Drill: Fostering Geothermal

Thu, 04 March, 2021

Geothermal energy has multiple uses including its use in the production of hydrogen.  Focused on developing ‘holistic’ technologies for geothermal drilling, the Geo-Drill project has been working towards development of prototypes for novel hammer, advanced drill monitoring system based on sensors and, innovative materials that can improve the lifetime of drilling components. The project, therefore, is working towards the impact objective of making geothermal energy economical and sustainable.

Crude oil prices are climbing as the world slowly emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, with market traders banking on a steep upturn in industry and travel, especially in cars as people will want their secure space, with social distancing still paramount. Whilst we have enjoyed many months of reduced emissions from vehicles, that is set to change in the very near future and, until we get the Covid pandemic fully under control and fully understood, this trend will continue for some time to come. In parallel, copper and nickel prices have also risen sharply, as these are extremely important for the transition to electric cars and often copper and nickel are mined in regions that have poor economies and hence limited health programmes that cannot roll-out Covid vaccination programmes.

So, it has to make sense to get people to move away from personal cars and onto improved social transport such as very low to zero emission trains, coaches and buses. Add to this zero emission heavy goods vehicles and ships, we start to get a long way down the road to lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

“Blue” hydrogen is usually created by “cracking” natural gas, which creates large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. An alternative method of hydrogen production is electrolysis of water. Renewable baseload electricity is passed through water where it splits each H2O molecule into oxygen and hydrogen gas. If the electricity for hydrogen production is generated from fossil fuels, then the process also creates large amounts of CO2.

So, to get “green” hydrogen we need to be using renewable sources of electricity production. Perhaps then, deep geothermal might be one of the solutions to achieve this?

Well, it very well might be, when we take into account that geothermal can provide baseload energy regardless of the climate and with low environmental footprint or impact. Sounds too good to be true, does it not? Well, we will have to drill deeper than we do currently; the developments within the Geo-Drill project will most certainly help this and reduce the CAPEX cost. There may also be other benefits such as the production of fresh water, where seawater is desalinated to cool the turbines, or the use of the waste heat to warm/cool homes, horticultural uses, or even leftfield things such as Tilapia farming.