Sunday, December 13, 2009

Geothermal shutdowns

The future of geothermal power is very uncertain with the shutdown of two geothermal projects in Switzerland and the United States. Swiss earthquakes in 2006 and 2007, believed caused by the Basel, Switzerland project appear to be behind the shutdowns. Swiss researchers found that going forward with the Basel project would lead to a swarm of earthquakes. The following video was shot before and during one of the Swiss earthquakes, before project leaders learned that they faced possible criminal charges under Swiss law. At that point the cheering stopped.


LarryD said...

A little more detail here

From the linked NYTimes article on the US project:
"Geothermal enthusiasts asserted that drilling miles into hard rock, as required by the technique, could be done quickly and economically with small improvements in existing methods, Professor Schrag said. “What we’ve discovered is that it’s harder to make those improvements than some people believed,” he added.

"In fact, AltaRock immediately ran into snags with its drilling, repeatedly snapping off bits in shallow formations called caprock. The project’s safety was also under review at the Energy Department after federal officials said the company had not been entirely forthcoming about the earthquakes produced in Basel in making the case for the Geysers project.

"The results of that review have not yet been announced, but the type of geothermal energy explored in Basel and at the Geysers requires fracturing the bedrock then circulating water through the cracks to produce steam. By its nature, fracturing creates earthquakes, though most of them are small.

"On Friday, the Energy Department, which has put some $440 million into its geothermal program this year alone, said that despite the latest developments, it remained confident of the technology’s long-term prospects. Many geothermal methods do not require drilling so deep or fracturing bedrock."

LarryD said...

Follow up on the Swiss project: from the BBC
"Appearing in court in Basel on Tuesday, Mr Haering rejected allegations that he deliberately damaged properties and claimed local people were aware of the risks.

He said those involved had "very little knowledge of seismicity" before drilling began in the Petit-Huningue area of the city.

But the project leaders had an emergency plan and "every minute, we knew what was going on and were able to act instantly".

One of the earthquakes generated had a 3.4 magnitude.


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