Research efforts to help Mexico tap its geothermal potential

Avenida de la Reforma, Mexico City, Mexico (source: flickr/ Enrique Dans, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 18 Jan 2016

Researchers at the Mexican Center for Innovation in Geothermal Energy (CeMIE-Geo) and UNAM conducting research on helping Mexico to utilise its geothermal potential.

Mexico is among the four countries with the highest potential for geothermal energy, and now a group of scientists in the country develop methods to improve the knowledge that enables the generation of energy.

The company produces about 1,000 MW of geothermal energy, equivalent to seven percent of world production in this area. Besides the cost of a deposit of this type between two and five million dollars per megawatt produced, hence the importance of knowing the potential and the right places to invest in an exploration well.

One of the researchers involved in the search for methods and techniques potentializing geothermal energy is thermal energy Dr. Edgar Gutierrez Santoyo Institute for Renewable Energy (IER), Morelos Campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and He explained that geothermal energy is the heat that is stored in the depths of the earth and can be extracted through wells drilled.

The scientist develops enhanced recovery techniques in geochemistry to know precisely the temperature and processes that exist in the depths of the Earth and assess their likely ability to generate electricity.

Currently, the Mexican Center for Innovation in Geothermal Energy (CeMIE-Geo) and UNAM work together to create methodologies and partnerships between industry and academia. From this collaboration it has been achieved calibrate new instruments and explore geothermal hot dry rock systems, among which the promising geothermal area Acoculco in Puebla.

Santoyo Gutierrez and his team conducted geochemical studies that integrate various disciplines, such as geophysics, geology and geochemistry, necessary to determine the potential of a site, assess the characteristics, drill the well and create electricity or heat.

There are two types of geothermal systems, hydrothermal, characterized by a primary source of heat and hot fluids stored at the bottom of the Earth, to migrate to the surface naturally can manifest as fumaroles, geysers, boiling or a volcanic soils eruption.

Others are hot dry rock systems that only have a primary heat source characterized by having only primary sources of high temperature and does not have aquifers or fluids because water from rivers or rain does not leak or accumulate but they are a primary source of heat, in which research centers.

It should be noted that the country’s Federal Electricity Commission is the institution responsible for exploration and exploitation of geothermal fields for the generation of electricity.

In the laboratory instruments are calibrated to measure the chemical composition of the geothermal fluid and emissions of gases like carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen, to determine the probable origin of the fluids, which can be geothermal, biogenic and anthropogenic (generated by the man).

New infrastructure in human resources is also sought. In this regard, the UNAM researcher states that “Mexico is a country rich in renewable energy, especially geothermal resources and demands specialists in different areas to conduct basic and applied research leading to more innovation, product generation and processes more sustainable energy. ”