Geothermal energy refers to the heat derived from the earth’s subsurface, which is channeled through water or steam to the top. Depending on its specific characteristics, geothermal energy may be used for heating and cooling purposes or harnessed to produce renewable electricity.
The principal differentiators are that they do not rely on weather conditions and have very high capacity variables; for these reasons, geothermal power plants are capable of supplying electricity at base load and, in certain scenarios, of supplying ancillary services for short and long-term sustainability.
Research shows a 5% hike in the number of geothermal energy power-plants across Europe compared to 2019. These statistics will only grow higher in the years that will follow. Scientists are working hard to make this resource more affordable and increase its efficiency.
Hurdles Faced by Geothermal Plants in Europe
- The temperature and pressure levels required for the drilling are extremely high, going up to 450 degrees Celsius in some cases.
- Due to the adverse pressure and temperature requirements, the equipment and infrastructure of the plant are jeopardized, and its lifespan decreases.
- The casings change their shape when the wells are maintained by constant cooling and heating due to thermal expansion in high temperatures.
- The geological layers causing earthquakes can be reinstated by destabilizing the unstable equilibrium at depth with geothermal wells. Researchers have studied the seismic activity associated with geothermal exploration in search of supercritical fluids. They discovered the drilling did trigger unregulated seismic activity in some cases.
- Geothermal energy production from the ground results in the emission of greenhouse gases such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. The amount of gas emitted is, however, considerably smaller than in the case of fossil fuels. Researchers are looking for a way to lower the emissions even further.
- The cost of setting up and running the plants is extravagant, although the long term returns in a period of five to ten years seem promising.
Geothermal plants meet the majority of the electricity requirements of Iceland. Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station, which produces 120 megawatts of electrical power, is the second-largest facility in Iceland.
Researchers are testing new technologies through constant drilling of fully automated rigs in Iceland, which helps overcome the hurdles mentioned earlier and reduce production costs. As part of a European research project coordinated by the Isor Iceland GeoSurvey Institute in Reykjavik, the technology has been developed by scientists.
Isor, together with some other renowned research institutions, including IRIS in Norway, GFZ in Germany, TNO in the Netherlands, and BRGM in France, is one of the stakeholders in the Geowell Project of the European Union. Geowell strives to enhance efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly technologies for the design, production, and surveillance of geothermal wells at high temperatures, contributing to the improvement of this technology.
Typically, the mechanism is set when the various parts of the pipes are connected. But instead, our flexible couplings allow the couplings to extend into the shaft. This ensures we strip away the tension. When the well is cooled down again, then it can reopen.
Unlike other regions of Europe, such as Greece, Turkey, Azores, and Italy, where potential resources are found at much greater depths (about 5-6 kilometers), these flexible couplings can operate at a meager 2-kilometer depth. Less depth means that the good casings do not have to be long, which significantly reduces problems they may cause.
The material used in the equipment is set to high industry standards and ensures longevity and better safety standards. Moreover, since the drilling contributes to 30-35% of the total cost, it is essential to lower the costs to increase returns, reduce energy bills, and provide promising results for the consumers in ongoing years. Convincing the drilling industry workers to move toward the new equipment set-up instead of the conventional methods is also a task.
- Reduced costs.
- Expansion of casings can be avoided to a significant extent.
- Less depth is required, allowing lower maintenance costs.
- A more reliable and efficient source of energy production creates minimal harm to the environment.