Posts Tagged ‘ultradeep geothermal’

The hype for ultradeep geothermal is building, as it should be given the intermittency and energy density issues that limit the potential of other renewable energy options. However, the ability to drill 20 km into the earth’s surface with millimeter, rock-melting waves has yet to be demonstrated.

Conventional drilling technology gets you through sedimentary formations to the hard basement rock that lies below. That is where gyrotrons will be expected to vaporize rock to depths needed to tap into unlimited 900+ deg F geothermal energy. But questions regarding gyrotron reliability, hole stability, and material removal. Quaise Energy is working with DOE’s Oak Ridge lab to resolve these issues. Field tests are expected over the next few years with initial energy production in 2026. This is all very exciting, but even conventional drilling is seldom routine, so complications should be expected.

Here’s a very good video:

Thomas Vogel, Getty images.
Gyrotron, Popular Mechanics, Encyclopedia Britannica

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Update on the most promising renewable energy alternative:

Quaise has received a grant from the Department of Energy to scale up Woskov’s experiments using a larger gyrotron. With the larger machine, the team hopes to vaporize a hole 10 times the depth of Woskov’s lab experiments by the end of this year. After that, the team will vaporize a hole 10 times the depth of the previous one — what co-founder Matt Houde calls a 100-to-1 hole.

“That’s something [the DOE] is particularly interested in, because they want to address the challenges posed by material removal over those greater lengths — in other words, can we show we’re fully flushing out the rock vapors?” Houde explains. “We believe the 100-to-1 test also gives us the confidence to go out and mobilize a prototype gyrotron drilling rig in the field for the first field demonstrations.”

Rather than getting deep in the weeds of carbon capture, imagine powering those existing facilities with steam generated without carbon emissions at all.

The key is that ultradeep geothermal has the power density and scalability of fossil fuels.

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Quaise Energy’s ultradeep geothermal energy concept is most intriguing and media interest continues to build. Ultradeep geothermal has a big advantage over other renewable concepts which have much greater space and aesthetic challenges and suffer from intermittency. As is very well explained in the quote below, it’s now up to Quaise to demonstrate gyrotron drilling and the associated technology in pilot projects.

“A lot of the technology advances [needed] are coming into that proof step where you’ll have physical proof that they work. So I would say we are ready to launch, if we can just bring together the right utility, the right contract and engineering expertise, and the right site to launch the proofs to show that this can be done,” said Ken Wisian, a geothermal geophysicist and associate director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, Austin. “The picture could be accelerating dramatically over the next few years. We just need the proof projects to land.”


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MIT Press

For others who are fascinated by ultradeep geothermal energy, MIT News has posted an update on Quaise Energy. Quaise wants to use x-rays to drill ultradeep geothermal wells at old coal and gas power plants.

“The company plans to vaporize enough rock to create the world’s deepest holes and harvest geothermal energy at a scale that could satisfy human energy consumption for millions of years. They haven’t yet solved all the related engineering challenges, but Quaise’s founders have set an ambitious timeline to begin harvesting energy from a pilot well by 2026.”

Quaise will use conventional rotary drilling technology to reach basement formations before switching to high-power millimeter waves that vaporize boreholes through rock and provide access to deep geothermal heat. See our previous post on this exciting concept.

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Wind and solar energy are likely to continue growing in importance over the next several decades, but massive space requirements and intermittency may prevent these energy sources from ever being dominant. On the other hand, geothermal power could prove to be the ultimate energy solution if we can effectively drill deep beneath the surface and tap into superheated rock.

Quaise Energy, headed by ex-Schlumberger/MIT engineer Carlos Araque, is developing a radical new approach to ultra-deep drilling. Quaise will use conventional rotary drilling technology to reach basement formations before switching to high-power millimeter waves that vaporize boreholes through rock and provide access to deep geothermal heat. Quaise’s timeline calls for operation of their first full-scale hybrid drilling rig in 2024 and their first super-hot geothermal system in 2028. Those interested in energy solutions should follow their progress.

Here is Quaise’s promotional video:

Good New Atlas article

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