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Offshore geothermal power project in Italy potential model for similar projects

Volcano Marsili off the coast of Sicily, Italy (source: expianetadidio)
Alexander Richter 23 Jun 2011

An offshore geothermal power project by Eurobuilding in Italy is looking at drilling into one of the largest (underwater) volcanoes in the world, close to Sicily and Calabria. A potentially EUR 2 billion project.

Reported earlier this spring already and so far not picked up here on ThinkGeoEnergy, an interesting project in Italy is looking to develop the first offshore geothermal project.

The world’s largest volcano can be found in Italy’s territorial waters off the coast of Sicily and Calabria. The Volcano Marsili is about 3,000 meters high, peaking at 800 meters below sea level about 80 km off the Aeolian Islands. With 50 km in diameter it is currently not active, but not completely extinguished and could see an eruption at any point in time.

Prof. Patrizio Signanini from the University of Chieti, had the idea to utilize the energy found in the volcano to produce geothermal power. Water that is close to overheating above the magma is expected to be over 300 ° C hot, and Professor Signanini imagined that if one could dig a tube capture to go to fetch that heat ??for operating steam turbines, an electricity generation capacity of 200 MW should be possible. Cold water would be reinserted in the oceanic crust using a borehole.

In the firm Eurobuilding, Prof. Patrizio Signanini found an industry partner. The company already has experience in the mining and drilling in the marine environment, and has been part of a research group including researchers from the Institute for Marine Geology IGM-CNR, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology INGV and University of Chieti and Bari since 2005. The group has published work demonstrating the presence of hundreds of millions of cubic meters geothermal fluids underground. They managed to locate these “reservoirs” and draw a “ray” of Mount Marsili.

Eurobuilding obtained an exclusive concession in 2009 on offshore geothermal development from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development. The license gives the company until 2013 to dig pilot wells up to 800 meters deep. Oil and gas technology is being used in the project, while adapted for geothermal energy conditions. There will be added security levels in case of leakage, but damage to the ecosystem would be marginal as only seawater would be used for the wells.

If the Italian governments allows the development of this technology, geothermal energy could account for 5 to 7% of national energy mix and become the second largest source of renewable energy after hydro-electric power. With the current project cost estimated at EUR 2 billion (US$2.9 billion), the estimated cost per kilowatt hour is more than just reasonable and represent a fraction of the cost involved in solar PV installations of the same size. ”

There are actually similar projects being evaluated, e.g. off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.

Sources: GotPowered, Project Website by Eurobuilding (in Italian)