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Maturing Geothermal Energy for Saudi Arabia – a great conference of KAUST

KAUST geothermal conference - participants (source: KAUST)
Alexander Richter 3 Feb 2020

With rapidly developing societies and per capita power consumption, Saudi Arabia is looking at renewable energy sources for its future. With the broad offering of geothermal and resources in the kingdom, it provides a concrete opportunity that was discussed during a recent conference at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

As the key oil nation in the world Saudi Arabia is also feeling the the global push towards renewable energy sources while facing a few of its own challenges.

The Middle East region has rapidly developing societies with some of the highest per capita power consumption in the world. However, to date there are few contributions from renewable energy sources. Yet, clean energy, water and new technologies are needed for a growing modern society to create jobs for a self-reliant economy and develop services and goods for export. Ambitious goals have been set by governments to tap into the exceptional potential for renewables the region offers. So with large solar and wind forms being planned, the question remains on what role geothermal energy could play in the context of Saudi Arabia. A question asked by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and having been discussed at a recent research conference held last week at the KAUST campus near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Over a three-day conference, short sessions looked into all possible aspects of resources to be found in Saudi Arabia, early stage geothermal development, geological potential, from subsurface fluid flow to drilling, from surface energy conversion systems to regulations and economics.

The three days of the conference were packed with great speakers and presentations and lively discussions after each session.

Day one saw presentations on the economic and societal frame for geothermal in Saudi Arabia, followed by the latest trends and developments in geothermal energy, the geothermal potential and geology in Saudi Arabia.

Day two saw presentations on efficient energy extraction and storage, low enthalpy geothermal, geothermal and CO2, and a continuation on looking at the geology and geothermal potential for the kingdom.

Going into the practical technical issues to consider looking for geothermal resources in the kingdom determined the program of day three. Subsurface modelling, advances in drilling and downhole equipment, uncertainties and economics.

It is difficult to highlight particular individuals presenting, but the speakers showed a great diversity from all segments of the geothermal space internationally, as well as specific oil & gas expertise to tie in the sector in Saudi Arabia for a future that could see geothermal development.

The discussions ending the conference tried to summarize the conference looking at how the Kingdom could utilise geothermal energy for its energy needs. Learning from other countries was seen as key and a necessary focus on “low-hanging fruits” was discussed. Utilising geothermal energy directly for applications such as desalination, cooling etc was seen as a great first step with less risk, great local impact and a first step to further development that could then also entail power production through geothermal.

A fantastic conference with great speakers, hosts and program that provided something for everybody while concretely looking at steps how to make geothermal “happen” in the kingdom. The participation of government representatives and discussions showed the great interest and openness to learn. So we hope that things will evolve from the conference, which clearly provided a great basis for further work.

The author presented during the event on the geothermal eco-system of players tied to geothermal development and geothermal energy utilisation.

Thanks to Tadeusz Patzek, Center Director & Professor, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Volker Vahrenkamp, Professor, Earth Science and Engineering at KAUST for a great event.

Source: KAUST