Sunday, January 01, 2012

Can Humans Get Over Their Fears of Small Earthquakes?

Scientists are continuously thinking of ways to try and reduce earthquake power. Some are trying to lessen the friction between colliding plates. They poured water down a fault where two plates were grinding together. The water “lubricated” the fault, letting one piece jerk free with a number of little earthquakes and preventing a large tremor. _EarthquakePrevention

If humans can get over their fears of small earthquakes, they could reap the bounty of huge amounts of energy beneath their feet, of multiple types.
Geothermal energy from EGS represents a large, indigenous resource that can provide base-load electric power and heat at a level that can have a major impact on the United States, while incurring minimal environmental impacts. With a reasonable investment in R&D, EGS could provide 100 GWe or more of cost-competitive generating capacity in the next 50 years. Further, EGS provides a secure source of power for the long term that would help protect America against economic instabilities resulting from fuel price fluctuations or supply disruptions. Most of the key technical requirements to make EGS work economically over a wide area of the country are in effect, with remaining goals easily within reach. _MIT Report 14 MB PDF
100 GWe is roughly the amount of power generated by 100 large nuclear reactors -- or several hundred small modular reactors. Geothermal power is available 24 hours a day, as baseload ... load following ... or peaking power. It is the ultimate non-nuclear, non-carbon power source -- if humans could only get over their fears of small earthquakes.

Small earthquakes can be frightening to children and those who have not grown accustomed to them. But the right succession of small earthquakes can relieve enough stress on crustal faults to prevent, delay, or mitigate the effect, of larger quakes that were destined to occur. Earthquake prevention is a difficult science due to the multiple interlocking crustal faults at varying depth -- many of which have not yet been discovered.

The fear of triggering small earthquakes has become a tremendous obstacle -- both to the development of rich new energy resources, and to the exciting new field of seismic exploratory activity aimed at eventually preventing large quakes. Energy starvationists of the green lefty-luddite dieoff.orgiast persuasion in particular, have been quick to seize on the common primal fear of small earthquakes, in order to shut down promising, reliable new sources of energy.

Geothermal energy can be tapped in multiple ways:
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 100C (212F) - 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.

...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 150C (300F). 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 150C (300F), 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. _Geothermal Promise
More information at this helpful Google enhanced geothermal website, including videos and links to information on some of the latest research and technologies.

Geothermal power at the Geysers in Lake County, California, has been associated with thousands of tiny earthquakes above magnitude 1 since 1975 when the resource was tapped. But earthquakes are triggered by a number of different things, including the construction of hydroelectric dams.
Depth of the reservoir is the most important factor, but the volume of water also plays a significant role in triggering earthquakes.
RIS [Reservoir Induced Seismicity] can be immediately noticed during filling periods of reservoirs.
RIS can happen immediately after the filling of a reservoir or after a certain time lag.
It would be best for humans to invest in the best accelerated research possible to clearly and unequivocally define the risks and benefits of small scale induced seismicity. One of the best ways of doing this would be for seismic scientists to work closely with deep drilling enterprises which also involve the deep injection of fluids into the earth's crust. By piggy-backing onto economic activity which is already being done, seismologists can increase the detail of their seismic maps, and can also collect abundant data on the impact of deep crustal fluid injection into different fault configurations.

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