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Pioneering Innovations in Geothermal

Introduction

The use of geothermal resources aligns with global goals for sustainable development by helping to provide affordable and clean energy with responsible consumption and production for sustainable cities and communities around the globe. These resources are scattered globally and now utilised in almost more than 80 countries. The exploitation of geothermal systems, however, varies with countries like France, Turkey and UK using the unconventional crystalline basements or sedimentary reservoirs as utilised by Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Denmark. The conventional geothermal systems (volcanic), on the other hand, are exploited by Iceland, Italy, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines and the USA.

VIDEO: Experts speak on Geothermal

Geothermal Challenges

Despite the opportunities offered, the use of geothermal is largely eclipsed by wind and solar energy - requiring further research for techno-economic feasibility and market uptake. This is due to the high upfront and operational costs as well as public reservations over its connection to the seismic activities.

“The geothermal sector is not unitedly focused on the business case, profitability and success stories. This makes the technology not attractive for investors as they are confronted with the high upfront costs and a considerable risk profile”, says Marit Brommer from the International Geothermal Association (IGA) “Successful exploitation requires scalability and the geothermal sector needs to move from prototype to customisation.”

Geothermal projects, more so often, fail to get off the ground due to high drilling costs. This is especially true for deep Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) in hard rocks, where the cost increases due to increased drilling distance, increase in tripping times and harsh inherent environments.

Addressing the Challenges through Technology and Innovation – The European Initiative

In recent years, the secure, clean and efficient energy work programme within Horizon 2020 has tremendously supported research, demonstration, innovation and market-uptake actions across different low-carbon energy sectors, particularly so in the geothermal sector. The calls to date have concentrated on developing the next generation of renewable energy technologies through innovative materials (corrosion/temperature/wear resistant, heat transfer), increased performance (drilling), improved cost effectiveness (plant flexibility), optimisation of plant operations (geo-fluid characterisation) and the reduction of emissions.

TWI Pioneers Research in Geothermal

Building on its core expertise in materials testing and surface engineering, TWI, is currently leading several initiatives worth over €40 million of EU funding. These projects exhibit excellence in providing innovative solutions to spectrum of challenges in geothermal.

  • Mitigating high drilling costs by developing holistic drilling technologies
  • Developing high-performance innovative materials and coatings for improved efficient and longevity of plant components.
  • Bridging the knowledge gap in understanding the chemistry of geofluids
  • Developing energy storage and power management innovations to provide daily flexibility

 

Acknowledgements

Marit Brommer (IGA), Johan Van Bael (VITO), Chris Punshon (TWI), Massimo Luchini (ENEL), Ural Halaçoğlu (Zorlu Energy),and Sæmundur Guðlaugsson (ON Power).

The projects have received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement numbers 764086 (Geo-Coat), 815319(Geo-Drill), 818576 (GeoSmart),851816 (GEOPRO) and 851917 (GeoHex).

 

+++ TWI is holding a webinar about how coatings can help to mitigate against the material challenges associated with geothermal energy production – find out more. +++

Avatar Namrata Kale Collaborative Project Manager - Materials Business Development

Namrata Kale is a Collaborative Project Manager in the Materials Business Development Section. Her current activities include the management and delivery of European and Innovate projects across different sections within the Materials and Structural Integrity Technology Group.

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