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What’s Holding Geothermal Energy Back?

What’s Holding Geothermal Energy Back?

Geothermal has long been considered…

The Oil Price Crash Could Trigger A Geothermal Energy Boom

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Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock

Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specialising in Energy and Finance. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK.

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Big Oil Invests In Geothermal Energy Breakthrough

BP and Chevron, this Tuesday, announced plans to invest heavily in geothermal energy through a new innovative start up. The new technology introduced by Canadian startup Eavor, pronounced “ever”, provides a clean energy source directly from the earth’s heat. 

BP and Chevron have made a $40 million investment in Calgary-based Eavor, bucking the trend by developing a largely overlooked energy source. Funding goes mainly towards the research and development of geothermal power. 

Senior vice president of zero carbon energy at BP, Felipe Arbelaez, states “Technology such as Eavor’s has the potential to deliver geothermal power and heat and help unlock a low carbon future.”. Further explaining, “Eavor has developed a new type of geothermal technology that, in very simple terms, creates an underground “radiator.””. 

The new technology, named ‘loop’, provides a closed-loop network of pipes which is installed between 3 to 4 km underground, linked to an aboveground facility. Liquid is able to travel in the pipes from the facility, through the hot underground environment, then back to surface level where it is converted into electricity. The flow of this liquid can be controlled to manage output. 

Unlike batteries, solar or wind power, this geothermal technology allows for a constant flow of power that does not rely on challenges such as weather conditions. Further, the technology can fit into existing energy production areas such as underneath solar farms, to combat space constraints. 

Until now, geothermal energy had accounted for less than 0.3 percent of the world’s energy due to its high-risk nature. However, the risks taken to invest in the geothermal power technologies of the 1980s and 90s are no longer an issue when using Eavor’s closed-loop structure.

Eavor’s system is ground-breaking as is significantly cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional geothermal technology. It does not rely on fracking methods to put the system in place and does need specific underground hot water sources to tap into geothermal energy.

Related: Oil Prices Soar As U.S. Oil Production Plunges 30%

In addition, the geothermal technology releases zero carbon emissions, offering oil and gas companies a means to fulfil the increasingly common aim of net-carbon-zero within the next one to three decades. 

This represents BP’s first investment into geothermal power, and Chevron’s return to the market, having sold its geothermal assets in 2016. It is the first investment by oil majors into Eavor’s system, which previously only accepted angel and venture capital investment. 

The new geothermal technology could be the Zero-Emitting Load-Following Resource (ZELFR) the oil and gas industry has been waiting for. Thanks to its low-cost installation, constant energy supply and minimal space requirements, it could prove to be the green energy that governments and regulators have been calling for. 

As well as providing constant energy, the most promising part of this system is that the underground heat providing geothermal energy will not run out, making it a safer bet than the finite resources we currently use. Despite being largely overlooked until now, the new technology could harness the power of this untapped resource. 

By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com

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