Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Ultimate Frack

Disturbing a dormant volcano might seem ill-advised, but that's what a company will do this month in a bid to exploit an untapped source of clean energy.

Engineers working for Seattle-based AltaRock Energy and the firm's partners have been given the green light by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to start injecting water into a series of connected cracks 3 kilometres down at Oregon's Newberry volcano (pictured, right). Their goal is to heat the water, before returning it to the surface as steam to drive turbines and generate electricity.
Geothermal power projects usually tap into naturally convecting hot water below Earth's surface, but most geothermal energy is actually stored in impermeable hot rocks.
The $44-million Newberry project is one of a new wave of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) that aims to exploit these rocks by fracturing them with pressurised water. This boosts permeability enough to support geothermal operations.
Harnessing the energy in a dormant volcano seems to be something you would expect in a Preston/Childs novel.  I hope it works, but I can't get the vision of a kid picking at a scab out of my head.  I just hope it doesn't start bleeding again, because a couple days of eruption will release more CO2 into the atmosphere than the entire United States in the previous year.   As far as all the other side effects of an erupting volcano...I never much cared for the Northwest, and Oregon in particular. 

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