Thursday, October 07, 2010

Buying Heat from the Devil In The Age of Global Warming

Southern Methodists Locate Gate to Hell in West Virginia

Traditional folklore tells us about "gates to hell" which provide the devil ready access to the human world. Some scientists are wondering if these hellgates might be put to good use. A 2007 MIT study found that exploitable geothermal heat resources could provide a significant portion of future heat and power needs for North America. Now, scientists from the Geothermal Lab of the Southern Methodist University have located an area in West Virginia with elevated crustal temperatures and heat flow. A detailed mapping of bottom hole temperatures from oil and gas wells has clarified the view of potential geothermal resources, as part of an ongoing effort to create an update of the Geothermal Map of North America (GMNA)
The GMNA was developed from roughly 3,600 heat flow and 12,000 BHT data measurements along with regional thermal conductivity models. However, large areas of the Central and Eastern United States contain few data points and have been under sampled in all previous national geothermal resource assessments. Since the previous GMNA data sets were completed, approximately 7,500 new data points have been analyzed and currently more are being processed for this project. The data was collected from oil, gas, water, and thermal gradient wells from New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Michigan. As a result of the new heat flow determinations, estimates of heat content and MWe potential for Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are substantially increased. _SMU

More from Brian Westenhaus:
The high temperature zones beneath West Virginia revealed by the new mapping are concentrated in the eastern portion of the state. Starting at depths of 4.5 km (greater than 15,000 feet), temperatures reach over 150°C (300°F), which is hot enough for commercial geothermal power production.

Blackwell continues, “The early West Virginia research is very promising but we still need more information about local geological conditions to refine estimates of the magnitude, distribution, and commercial significance of their geothermal resource.”

Zachary Frone, an SMU graduate student researching the area said, “More detailed research on subsurface characteristics like depth, fluids, structure and rock properties will help determine the best methods for harnessing geothermal energy in West Virginia.” The next step in evaluating the resource will be to locate specific target sites for focused investigations to validate the information used to calculate the geothermal energy potential in this study.

Of added significance the team’s work may also shed light on other similar geothermal resources. “We now know that two zones of Appalachian age structures are hot — West Virginia and a large zone covering the intersection of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana known as the Ouachita Mountain region,” said Blackwell. “Right now we don’t have the data to fill in the area in between,” Blackwell continued, “but it’s possible we could see similar results over an even larger area.” Lets hope the research finds a large extent of fast rising heat for geothermal production in the Eastern US _NewEnergyandFuel
Google provided a grant to the SMU Geothermal Lab to do the study. But who will give the devil his due, when humans start stealing heat from these nether regions? Will Google? Will the southern methodists? Stay tuned.



Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

A good geothermal source needs more than high temperature. Usually, it also needs a fractured rock which will produce hot water - or which will allow injected water to be pumped in and produced from a neighboring well. Then there are the problems with losing heat when the hot water flows/is pumped back up to the surface.

(Spot quiz! What do you call a 15,000 foot metal pipe? That's right -- a heat exchanger).

Since the natural or injected water is usually saturated with nasty salts by the time it gets to the surface, there are lots of problems with salt deposition in equipment and salt water disposal.

Bottom line -- geothermal is great where there are natural geysers. For everywhere else, there is the nuclear reactor.

3:16 PM  

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