Geothermal Systems

Brief History
Electrical Generation Methods
Geothermal Power Today
Major Stakeholders in Geothermal
Worldwide Trends
Enhanced Geothermal Systems
A History of Geopower
• Geothermal power was first used to
produce electricity in Larderello, Italy in
– Used to light five lightbulbs
– In 1911, an entire plant was built on the site
• In 1920’s experimental plants were built
– In Beppu, Japan and the Geysers, California.
• 1958, New Zealand installs flash generation
plant at Wairakei.
• 1960, the Geysers begins operating as a
geothermal power plant.
• 1967, Russia develops the binary cycle
power plant
Electric Generation
Dry Steam Power Plants or Hot Dry Rock Power Plants
Vapor dominated resources where steam production is not contaminated
Steam is 300°F or higher
Most common and most commercially attractive
Used in areas where geysers do not exist
Need water to inject down into rock
Binary cycle power plant
Uses lower-temperatures hot water resources (100° F – 300° F).
Hot water is passed through a heat exchanger in conjunction with a
secondary (hence, "binary plant") fluid with a lower boiling point.
Binary plants use a self-contained cycle, nothing is emitted.
Lower-temperature reservoirs are far more common, which makes binary
plants more prevalent.
Flash or Steam plants
Use very hot (more than 300° F) steam and hot water resources)
Steam either comes directly from the resource, or the very hot, highpressure water is depressurized ("flashed") to produce steam.
Geothermal Power
• As of May 2010, the International Geothermal
Association (IGA) reported 10,715 MW of
installed geothermal power capacity in 24
• 70 countries currently have projects under
• According to a 1999 study by the IGA, 39
countries around the world can meet 100% of
their electricity demand with geothermal
Comoros Islands
Costa Rica
El Salvador
St. Vincent
Papua-New Guinea
Solomon Islands
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Lucia
Biggest Names in Geothermal
Calpine is the worlds largest producer of
geothermal power, and operates 50% of
the US’s installed capacity.
Ormat operates 15% of US’s installed
capacity. It is also the only verticallyintegrated company in the geothermal
industry. It designs, develops, owns and
operates geothermal plants around the
Enal is one of the biggest world leaders in
geothermal energy, and has extensive
knowledge in maintaining geothermal
Islandsbanki is an international bank based
in Iceland that funds geothermal energy
Trends Affecting Implementation
Hindering Factors
• Impoverished nations can’t
afford the startup for the
– Asian financial crash of ‘97
severely cut into it’s ability to
have geothermal industries
invest in the area.
• Effect of the system on the
– Hydraulic fracturing is used in
some systems
– Overdrawing of heat is
possible from a system
– Reservoirs can be ran dry
– Induced Seismicity
Encouraging Factors
• Little to no greenhouse gas
– Binary, closed loop energy
systems have net zero emissions
Applicable to many different parts
of the world
– Geothermal electricity can be
tapped in many active geothermal
– In low-temperature areas, new
technology has allowed for even
more areas to utilize geothermal
• Energy is renewable
– Over used areas can be
replenished over time
Enhanced Geothermal Systems
• Typical geothermal systems
are only able to be
implemented in select areas
that have:
• Significant geothermal
• An established reservoir
• Sufficient fluid flow
through the reservoir
• EGS’s are used in areas that
don’t have all of these
The Geysers
• First power plant built in the 60’s,
which produced 11 MW of power
• Now the site of 22 geothermal plants
producing 1517 MW of power
• Meets 60% of the power demand for
the coastal region between the
Golden Gate Bridge and Oregon
• Geysers was originally a typical
geothermal system. However, it began
to dry up it’s fluid reservoir and has
since become an EGS by pumping
greywater from the City of Saint Rosa
and Lake County sewage treatment
plants into the reservoir
Location, Location, Location
• The Geysers’ fluid reservoir is held in a sandstone layer
– Optimal for fluid flow
• The reservoir is above a large magma chamber located
4 miles below the ground and over 8 miles in diameter.
• Such a large area has allowed the system to be tapped
into many times
– There are more than 350 wells producing steam from the
• The heat from the magma chamber is so great that it’s
a dry steam in the reservoir
– Excellent for the power plant turbines which rely upon a
vapor phase input
• 19 of the 22 plants are operated by Calpine. The
other 3 are owned by Northern California Power
Agency and the municipal Electrical Utility of
Santa Clara, California.
• A consolidated ownership of the system is helpful
– Individual plants operate cooperatively instead of
acting on short term interest
– Performance of plants in the area have an effect on
the production of each other
CO2 Geothermal Systems
• Uses CO2 instead of
water as a heating fluid
– Much of the geothermal
capacity of the US is
located in the arid
Southwest, where water
is scarce
– Large quantities of water
are needed in standard
geothermal systems
• An Arizona startup company, they are
pioneering the idea first thought up by Donald
Brown at the Department of Energy’s Los
Alamos National Lab and further advanced by
Karsten Preuss and others at the Department’s
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
• By the end of 2011 they are looking to drill
their first geothermal well for production
using CO2
• Using CO2 as a heating fluid provides a variety of
benefits suggesting it is better than water as a
geothermal fluid
– Better heat recovery rates
– Lower pumping costs
– Fewer problems with rock alterations and surface
• In injecting the CO2 underground, it also adds the
added benefit of sequestering a portion of the
Pending successful implementation, GreenFire has
plans to implement more power stations around
St. John’s Dome in Arizona
– Would utilize CO2 streams from six surrounding coalfired power plants which produce 100 million tons of
CO2 each year, as the main feed for the system
Supporting Companies and
• GreenFire established a joint venture with Enhanced Oil
Resources, Inc. in 2009 to help evaluate the St. John’s Dome
area for potential of being used for carbon dioxide EGS
– EOR is particularly interested in the venture because of the Helium
reserves within St. John’s Dome that would also be obtained by
drilling the reservoir
• In 2010, GreenFire licensed with AltaRock Energy to further
establish the research in using carbon dioxide as a heating fluid
in geothermal systems
– AltaRock Energy is renewable energy development company, focusing
in Engineered Geothermal Systems
• Late 2010, GreenFire received a $2 million grant from the DOE
to further investigate the potential for low-temperature, carbon
dioxide based geothermal power.
– In 2009, the DOE allocated $350 million for geothermal energy
projects, but also $3 billion for carbon capture and sequestration
The Outlook for EGS
The US Department of Energy is
providing incentives
• $400 million set aside in 2010
specifically for geothermal, and $150
million of that was marked for EGS
The IGA says that there could be 80,000
MW of EGS projects completed
globally in the next 40 years
In March, 2011 the GEA released a report
stating that US geothermal production
could triple over the next few years
• Expanding from 9 to 15 states
• Currently 146 projects are currently in
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