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Energy Gang, GTM Podcast – Will geothermal ever boom like “fracking”?

Energy Gang - A GTM Podcast Website
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 18 Jun 2019

In a recent podcast by the Energy Gang - a podcast by GTM Media, a discussion shares views on the recently released GeoVision report on geothermal by the DOE in the U.S. and if the sector could see a boom similar to that of "fracking".

In November 2018, the Energy Gang – a podcast by GreenTech Media featured a discussion on geothermal energy and its possibility for scaling.

The Energy Gang is now at it again with a discussion on if geothermal energy will ever boom like fracking.

The discussion circled around the recently released GeoVision report by the U.S. Department of Energy that highlights a positive outlook for geothermal energy in the U.S. The group also recognizes a similar gloomy report on geothermal back from 2007, the infamous MIT report on the opportunities in Engineered/ Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) for the U.S. back in 2007.

The discussion by Stephen Lacey, Katherine Hamiltan and Jigar Shah is very much U.S. focused.

It is always great to hear geothermal featured and hear discussions on the subject, particularly when the heating element and opportunities provided by geothermal energy find itself into the discussion.

Focusing on the GeoVision report, I was a bit missing the discussion on the regulatory element of geothermal development and how improvements could help push development of conventional (hydrothermal) resources in the U.S., as laid out in the report.

Challenge naturally is always the heating element and the drift to merely talk about heat pumps, while the discussion then found its way there.

The group discussed the push of the U.S. government in 2008/ 2009 and funding made available for geothermal energy in the form of loan guarantees. While described as a success, it did not take into consideration that this focused on the construction phase of development and therefore likely did not have the big impact as hoped for. Much better would have been to help projects earlier in the development cycle, particularly for drilling. The establishment of a drilling fund or scheme would have likely had a much broader impact for geothermal development in the U.S. getting projects over this challenging hurdle

The group also discussed that the Production Tax and Investment Tax Credits did not help geothermal as much, and this is true particularly in an economy that is slowing down like happened in 2008/ 2009. There simply was not that much interest in tax credits for investments in geothermal development.  It was also interesting to hear the note on the Portfolio Standards in the U.S. and their role in pushing renewable development. The fact that the system does not put any bonus to baseload capacity puts geothermal at a disadvantage. I am not sure exactly if that really is the case, but indeed the valuation of secure and higher capacity factors are not taken into consideration efficiently. The pricing needed to make geothermal viable are simply much higher than for the solar and wind installations, while at the same time providing much more trustable and constant energy.

Essentially, so the discussion, policies in the U.S. have not been favourable and supportive of geothermal energy. Policy makers and utilities will have to want geothermal. The crucial element is that geothermal will achieve larger utility scale of development.

The discussion on the technology element of geothermal was interesting. The group mentioned that oil and gas technology has not been working for geothermal, e.g. horizontal drilling. Not sure I agree with that. Directional drilling has helped many geothermal projects to become successful in reaching drilling targets and tapping reservoirs for energy production. We as an industry have profited on technological development in the oil and gas sector when it comes to drilling. There remain though challenges and differences, due to the fact of high temperatures of our drilling targets and that is true.

Overall, there seem to be only incremental technological advancements in geothermal, but they keep pushing things forward, so the Energy Gang.

If the newly released (positive) GeoVision report by DOE will provide better hope for geothermal will have to be seen, but “utility scale” of development will be key.

In summary, a good discussion with some good insights. While the heating element and what geothermal has to offer in this context is still underrepresented, it is great to see it entering the discussion as it does greatly in other parts of the world. Energy Gang, keep it up and continue bringing geothermal topics. … oh and yes Stephen, we don’t like to use the word “fracking” in geothermal as it implies similar impact than the higher pressured approach used for extracting gas.

Source: Energy Gang – a GTM Podcast