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CHARACTERISTICS, DEVELOPMENT AND UTILIZATION GEOTHERMAL ( characteristics-development-and-utilization-geothermal )

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CHARACTERISTICS, DEVELOPMENT AND UTILIZATION OF GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES John W. Lund, Geo-Heat Center, Oregon Institute of Technology INTRODUCTION Early humans probably used geothermal water that occurred in natural pools and hot springs for cooking, bathing and to keep warm. We have archeological evidence that the Indians of the Americas occupied sites around these geothermal resources for over 10,000 years to recuperate from battle and take refuge. Many of their oral legends describe these places and other volcanic phenomena. Recorded history shows uses by Romans, Japanese, Turks, Icelanders, Central Europeans and the Maori of New Zealand for bathing, cooking and space heating. Baths in the Roman Empire, the middle kingdom of the Chinese, and the Turkish baths of the Ottomans were some of the early uses of balneology; where, body health, hygiene and discussions were the social custom of the day. This custom has been extended to geothermal spas in Japan, Germany, Iceland, and countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Americas and New Zealand. Early industrial applications include chemical extraction from the natural manifestations of steam, pools and mineral deposits in the Larderello region of Italy, with boric acid being extracted commercially starting in the early 1800s. At Chaudes-Aigues in the heart of France, the world’s first geothermal district heating system was started in the 14th century and is still going strong. The oldest geothermal district heating project in the United States is on Warm Springs Avenue in Boise, Idaho, going on line in 1892 and continues to provide space heating for up to 450 homes. The first use of geothermal energy for electric power production was in Italy with experimental work by Prince Gionori Conti between 1904 and 1905. The first commercial power plant (250 kWe) was commissioned in 1913 at Larderello, Italy. An experimental 35 kWe plant was installed in The Geyers in 1932, and provided power to the local resort. These developments were followed in New Zealand at Wairakei in 1958; an experimental plant at Pathe, Mexico in 1959; and the first commercial plant at The Geysers in the United States in 1960. Japan followed with 23 MWe at Matsukawa in 1966. All of these early plants used steam directly from the earth (dry steam fields), except for New Zealand, which was the first to use flashed or separated steam for running the turbines. The former USSR produced power from the first true binary power plant, 680 kWe using 81 ̊C water at Paratunka on the Kamchatka peninsula – the lowest temperature, at that time. Iceland first produced power at Namafjall in northern Iceland, from a 3 MWe non-condensing turbine. These were followed by plants in El Salvador, China, Indonesia, Kenya, Turkey, Philippines, Portugal (Azores), Greece and Nicaragua in the 1970s and 80s. Later plants were installed in Thailand, Argentina, Taiwan, Australia, Costa Rica, Austria, Guatemala, Ethiopia, with the latest installations in Germany and Papua New Guinea. (See Cataldi, et al., 1999 for more background). GHC BULLETIN, JUNE 2007 TYPES OF GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES Geothermal energy comes from the natural generation of heat primarily due to the decay of the naturally occurring radioactive isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium in the earth. Because of the internal heat generation, the Earth’s surface heat flow averages 82 mW/m2 which amounts to a total heat loss of about 42 million megawatts. The estimated total thermal energy above mean surface temperature to a depth of 10 km is 1.3 x 1027 J, equivalent to burning 3.0 x 1017 barrels of oil. Since the global energy consumptions for all types of energy, is equivalent to use of about 100 million barrels of oil per day, the Earth’s energy to a depth of 10 kilometers could theoretically supply all of mankind’s energy needs for six million years (Wright, 1998). On average, the temperature of the Earth increases about 30 ̊C/km above the mean surface ambient temperature. Thus, assuming a conductive gradient, the temperature of the earth at 10 km would be over 300 ̊C. However, most geothermal exploration and use occurs where the gradient is higher, and thus where drilling is shallower and less costly. These shallow depth geothermal resources occur due to: (1) intrusion of molten rock (magma) from depth, bringing up great quantities of heat; (2) high surface heat flow, due to a thin crust and high temperature gradient; (3) ascent of groundwater that has circulated to depths of several kilometers and been heated due to the normal temperature gradient; (4) thermal blanketing or insulation of deep rocks by thick formation of such rocks as shale whose thermal conductivity is low; and. (5) anomalous heating of shallow rock by decay of radioactive elements, perhaps augmented by thermal blanketing (Wright, 1998). Geothermal resources are usually classified as shown in Table 1, modeled after White and Williams (1975). These geothermal resources range from the mean annual ambient temperature of around 20 ̊C to over 300 ̊C. In general, resources above 150 ̊C are used for electric power generation, although power has recently been generated at Chena Hot Springs Resort in Alaska using a 74 ̊C geothermal resource (Lund, 2006). Resources below 150 ̊C are usually used in direct-use projects for heating and cooling. Ambient temperatures in the 5 to 30 ̊C range can be used with geothermal (ground-source) heat pumps to provide both heating and cooling. Convective hydrothermal resources occur where the Earth’s heat is carried upward by convective circulation of naturally occurring hot water or steam. Some high- temperature convective hydrothermal resources result from deep circulation of water along fractures. 


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