Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Geothermal mapping report confirms vast coast-to-coast clean energy source in U.S.

Date:
October 25, 2011
Source:
Southern Methodist University
Summary:
New research documents significant geothermal resources across the United States capable of producing more than three million megawatts of green power -- 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today.

New research documents significant geothermal resources across the United States capable of producing more than three million megawatts of green power -- 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today.
Credit: Courtesy of SMU Geothermal Laboratory / Google Earth

New research from SMU's Geothermal Laboratory, funded by a grant from Google.org, documents significant geothermal resources across the United States capable of producing more than three million megawatts of green power -- 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today.

Related Articles


Sophisticated mapping produced from the research, viewable via Google Earth at www.google.org/egs, demonstrates that vast reserves of this green, renewable source of power generated from Earth's heat are realistically accessible using current technology.

The results of the new research, from SMU Hamilton Professor of Geophysics David Blackwell and Geothermal Lab Coordinator Maria Richards, confirm and refine locations for resources capable of supporting large-scale commercial geothermal energy production under a wide range of geologic conditions, including significant areas in the eastern two-thirds of the United States. The estimated amounts and locations of heat stored in Earth's crust included in this study are based on nearly 35,000 data sites -- approximately twice the number used for Blackwell and Richards' 2004 Geothermal Map of North America, leading to improved detail and contouring at a regional level.

Based on the additional data, primarily drawn from oil and gas drilling, larger local variations can be seen in temperatures at depth, highlighting more detail for potential power sites than was previously evident in the eastern portion of the U.S. For example, eastern West Virginia has been identified as part of a larger Appalachian trend of higher heat flow and temperature.

Conventional U.S. geothermal production has been restricted largely to the western third of the country in geographically unique and tectonically active locations. For instance, The Geysers Field north of San Francisco is home to more than a dozen large power plants that have been tapping naturally occurring steam reservoirs to produce electricity for more than 40 years.

However, newer technologies and drilling methods can now be used to develop resources in a wider range of geologic conditions, allowing reliable production of clean energy at temperatures as low as 100˚C (212˚F) -- and in regions not previously considered suitable for geothermal energy production. Preliminary data released from the SMU study in October 2010 revealed the existence of a geothermal resource under the state of West Virginia equivalent to the state's existing (primarily coal-based) power supply.

"Once again, SMU continues its pioneering work in demonstrating the tremendous potential of geothermal resources," said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association. "Both Google and the SMU researchers are fundamentally changing the way we look at how we can use the heat of the Earth to meet our energy needs, and by doing so are making significant contributions to enhancing our national security and environmental quality."

"This assessment of geothermal potential will only improve with time," said Blackwell. "Our study assumes that we tap only a small fraction of the available stored heat in the Earth's crust, and our capabilities to capture that heat are expected to grow substantially as we improve upon the energy conversion and exploitation factors through technological advances and improved techniques."

Blackwell is releasing a paper with details of the results of the research to the Geothermal Resources Council on October 25, 2011.

Blackwell and Richards first produced the 2004 Geothermal Map of North America using oil and gas industry data from the central U.S. Blackwell and the 2004 map played a significant role in a 2006 Future of Geothermal Energy study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy that concluded geothermal energy had the potential to supply a substantial portion of the future U.S. electricity needs, likely at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact. SMU's 2004 map has been the national standard for evaluating heat flow, temperature and thermal conductivity for potential geothermal energy projects.

In this newest SMU estimate of resource potential, researchers used additional temperature data and in-depth geological analysis for the resulting heat flow maps to create the updated temperature-at-depth maps from 3.5 kilometers to 9.5 kilometers (11,500 to 31,000 feet). This update revealed that some conditions in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. are actually hotter than some areas in the western portion of the country, an area long-recognized for heat-producing tectonic activity. In determining the potential for geothermal production, the new SMU study considers the practical considerations of drilling, and limits the analysis to the heat available in the top 6.5 km (21,500 ft.) of crust for predicting megawatts of available power. This approach incorporates a newly proposed international standard for estimating geothermal resource potential that considers added practical limitations of development, such as the inaccessibility of large urban areas and national parks. Known as the 'technical potential' value, it assumes producers tap only 14 percent of the 'theoretical potential' of stored geothermal heat in the U.S., using currently available technology.

Three recent technological developments already have sparked geothermal development in areas with little or no tectonic activity or volcanism:

  1. Low Temperature Hydrothermal -- Energy is produced from areas with naturally occurring high fluid volumes at temperatures ranging from less than boiling to 150°C (300°F). This application is currently producing energy in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Utah.
  2. Geopressure and Coproduced Fluids Geothermal -- Oil and/or natural gas are produced together with electricity generated from hot geothermal fluids drawn from the same well. Systems are installed or being installed in Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
  3. Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) -- Areas with low fluid content, but high temperatures of more than 150°C (300°F), are "enhanced" with injection of fluid and other reservoir engineering techniques. EGS resources are typically deeper than hydrothermal and represent the largest share of total geothermal resources capable of supporting larger capacity power plants.

A key goal in the SMU resource assessment was to aid in evaluating these nonconventional geothermal resources on a regional to sub-regional basis.

Areas of particular geothermal interest include the Appalachian trend (Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, to northern Louisiana), the aquifer heated area of South Dakota, and the areas of radioactive basement granites beneath sediments such as those found in northern Illinois and northern Louisiana. The Gulf Coast continues to be outlined as a huge resource area and a promising sedimentary basin for development. The Raton Basin in southeastern Colorado possesses extremely high temperatures and is being evaluated by the State of Colorado along with an area energy company.

SMU's Geothermal Laboratory in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences conducted this research through funding provided by Google.org, which is dedicated to using the power of information and innovation to advance breakthrough technologies in clean energy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Southern Methodist University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Southern Methodist University. "Geothermal mapping report confirms vast coast-to-coast clean energy source in U.S.." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025135936.htm>.
Southern Methodist University. (2011, October 25). Geothermal mapping report confirms vast coast-to-coast clean energy source in U.S.. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025135936.htm
Southern Methodist University. "Geothermal mapping report confirms vast coast-to-coast clean energy source in U.S.." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025135936.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) — Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Could Cheap Oil Help Fix U.S. Roads?

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) — As falling oil prices boost Americans' spending power, the U.S. government is also gaining flexibility from savings on oil. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

Raw: Russian Surfers Brave Icy Cold Waters

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) — Surfers in Russia's biggest port city on the Pacific Ocean, Vladivostok, were enjoying the sport on Saturday despite below freezing temperatures and icy cold waters. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) — A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins