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Balancing the Scales of the Geothermal Resource

Of the five renewable resources, geothermal tops the charts supplying the largest amounts of energy at any one time. It is well known that renewable sources are infinite, but is it possible for the geothermal resource in a region to become exhausted?

‘Heat pocket’ (not those yummy breakfast tarts) regions and volcanic rich zones located underground are tapped and the heat is extracted via a transport medium – typically water. The fluid is injected into wells where it flushes through the heat source and is forced out as steam or hot water via production wells at high pressures.

It may be surprising to learn that the geothermal resource is susceptible to exhaustion if extraction and production practices are not properly managed. The temperature and fluid pressure of the geothermal reservoir may decrease as heat energy is extracted. Issues can also arise when hot water or vapor are extracted at a rate which exceeds that of, and the heat within the reservoir cannot be replenished quickly enough.

1-Geo Fact and Stat - Balancing the scales of a Geo Resource

To maintain the pressures within the reservoir fluids can be re-injected, but if care is not taken, cooling ensues. This causes an imbalance in the system and the resource could be deemed unsustainable. Additional wells may need to be drilled over time to maintain energy production rates. According to the size of the reservoir, adequate extraction rates are necessary to prevent rapid depletion of the resource before the economic life of the plant ends. Engineers and technicians must prioritize these measures when drilling wells and constructing geothermal power plants for energy production.

What happens in a geothermal plant? Stay tuned more #GeothermalFactsandStats #geothermal #lovegeothermal

Author: Elizabeth Bullock

Photo credit: Mannvit