World Geothermal Congress
May 21-26, 2021

International Cooperation to Address and Mitigate the Climate Change Issue Using Unconventional Geothermal Technology (EGS)


[EGS Energy Ltd, United Kingdom]

It is recognised by many international organisations (World Bank, UNESCO etc.) that by 2050, climate change will have a dramatic effect on not just human beings but also on world geopolitics. Although geothermal energy should be able to play a major role in addressing this issue, this has not been the case to date due to a disparity in the availability of environment friendly geothermal energy in relation to the high demand for energy from the high density populated areas of the world (China, India, Europe, etc.). At present, the higher demand for energy in these areas is normally met with hydrocarbon resources with associated emission of greenhouse gases and other contaminants into the atmosphere (IEA, 2009), which in turn has led to the climate change effect. Worldwide conventional geothermal (hydrothermal) development is mainly in areas characterized by volcanism and/or crustal extension and thinning, both of which lead to anomalously high heat flow from the interior of the earth toward the surface. In these locations, the depth required to access high-temperature resources is relatively shallow. Economically, this is a distinct advantage; however, such resources have a limited geographic extent, and often do not coincide with the most densely populated areas. Therefore, geothermal’s contribution to the reduction of CO2 is relatively insignificant on a world-wide scale. Research is being carried out in many countries and regions to determine if significantly more geothermal energy can be made economically more accessible in the non-volcanic regions of the world. One of these concepts is the Engineered Geothermal System (EGS), whereby deep, naturally permeable faults are hydraulically manipulated at depth to emulate natural conventional hydrothermal systems, allowing injected cold water to be heated at depth and returned to the surface in production wells as high-temperature heat for commercial application; Smith 1975, Baria et al, 1990a and 1990b; Batchelor, 1990; Parker et al., 1989. Following a public funded, European R&D project at Soultz-sous-Forêts in France (Garnish et al., 1994; Baria et al., 1995; Baumgaertner, 1998; Baria et al., 1999a and 1999b), several small commercial EGS projects are now operational in Germany and France. All are located within the Rhine Graben (Baumgaertner et al., 2013a and 2013bB), which is known to host deep, permeable faults that can be enhanced to enable commercial flow rates of geothermal fluids. These projects have clearly demonstrated that deep faults systems can maintain sufficient in-situ fluid productivity for them to be regarded as long term and sustainable local energy resources. Additionally, the value of international collaboration (Soma et al., 2002; Moriya et al., 2003) has shown to be helpful in addressing scientific and engineering problems. Although these projects are relatively small (~5MWe, supplying around 10,000 homes), they have the potential to be scaled-up into much more significant sources of energy (Baria et al., 2012). This demonstrates that EGS has great potential for geothermal energy production outside volcanic areas. However, for this to become universally applicable, it needs to be demonstrated in various geological environments (not only the Rhine Graben). Authors of this paper agree that for EGS technology to be effective and help mitigate the climate change issue, a large-scale international collaboration (Baria et al 2016) is essential. It is proposed that a cooperation structure is established under a consortium consisting of bodies such as the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, the United Nations and others; providing the priority and credibility needed. The broad objectives would be to identify and characterise suitable deep fault systems in the vicinity of densely populated areas. This would lead to the establishment of EGS demonstration projects in key areas initially and commercial projects subsequently. Establishing an International EGS Centre of Excellence where scientists and engineers can come together to exchange experiences and drive the technology forward is proposed as a way to facilitate large-scale international cooperation and technology transfer. Based on experience gained at various sites, a scenario is put forward in this paper which could help the take up of EGS technology worldwide and thus assist the climate mitigation plan.

        Topic: Sustainability and Climate Change Paper Number: 05004

         Session 11D: Sustainability and Climate Change 2 -- Innovation [Monday 24th May 2021, 01:00 pm]
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