Packing heat: New fluid makes untapped geothermal energy cleaner

More American homes could be powered by the earth’s natural underground heat with a new, nontoxic and potentially recyclable liquid that is expected to use half as much water as other fluids used to tap into otherwise unreachable geothermal hot spots. The fluid might be a boon to a new approach to geothermal power called enhanced geothermal systems. These systems pump fluids underground, a step that’s called “reservoir stimulation,” to enable power production where conventional geothermal doesn’t work.

The new reservoir stimulation fluid features an environmentally friendly polymer that greatly expands the fluid’s volume, which creates tiny cracks in deep underground rocks to improve power production. This fluid could also substantially reduce the water footprint and cost of enhanced geothermal systems. A paper describing the fluid has been published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in an advance online version of the journal Green Chemistry.

“Our new fluid can make enhanced geothermal power production more viable,” said lead fluid developer Carlos Fernandez, a chemist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “And, though we initially designed the fluid for geothermal energy, it could also make unconventional oil and gas recovery more environmentally friendly.” Via Packing heat: New fluid makes untapped geothermal energy cleaner.

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