New geothermal heat extraction process to deliver clean power generation

The goal is to enable power generation from low-temperature geothermal resources at an economical cost. In addition to being a clean energy source without any greenhouse gas emissions, geothermal is also a steady and dependable source of power.

A new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources holds promise for generating virtually pollution-free electrical energy. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are testing a new innovative approach to safely and economically extract and convert heat from vast untapped geothermal resources.

“By the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity,” predicts PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail. “If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source.” A technical and economic analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10 percent of the nation’s overall electrical generating capacity by 2050.

The approach involves adding nanostructured metal-organic heat carriers, or MOHCs, which boost the power generation capacity to near that of a conventional steam cycle.

There are many areas of the US that would be suitable for enhanced geothermal power generation systems. Current geothermal systems have more potential for heating than for electrical power generation, so if this approach proves its ability, it will represent a significant breakthrough, and will greatly increase the practicality of geothermal power generation.

Illustration shows the molecular makeup of one of several metal-organic heat carriers, or MOHC, in the biphasic fluids being tested.

This article originally appeared on ENN, the Environmental News Network.

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