AltaRock Energy is developing geothermal technology by melting its way through rockFebruary 26, 2020
A rich source of this heat exists below the ground and this technology could make extraction easier.
There are tremendous sources of geothermal power under the Earth’s surface, and AltaRock Energy intends to make it easier to access. This could be particularly meaningful in this area as drilling to find sources is extremely expensive.
Breaking through the dense rock far below the surface is expensive enough to be cost prohibitive.
That said, AltaRock Energy is working on the development of a new form of “enhanced” drilling system. The goal is to make it easier to drill through high pressure conditions and dense rock. This new drilling technology will be able to “melt and vaporize rocks” through the use of millimeter waves.
The technology involves the development of high frequency microwave beam generators designed specifically for this purpose. They would make it possible for driller to make it through dense rock at greater depths considerably faster and at a substantially lower cost than using current techniques.
AltaRock Energy claims that a tiny 0.1 percent of the Earth’s heat could accommodate the world’s needs.
In fact, the company feels that this amount of the Earth’s heat content could provide all the energy humanity requires for about 2 million years. However, being able to drill into such extreme temperatures is difficult. Temperatures at those depths can reach 10,800 degrees Fahrenheit (around 6,000 degrees Celsius).
Most of the world’s current geothermal projects drill to a maximum of 3 kilometers underground as a result of technical and financial hurdles. As a result of these limitations, geothermal currently represents only about 0.2 percent of the total worldwide power capacity.
“Today, we have an access problem,” said Carlos Araque, the CEO of one of the company’s affiliate, Quaise. “The promise is that, if we could drill 10 to 20 kilometers deep, we’d basically have access to an infinite source of energy.”
The U.S. Department of Energy gave AltaRock Energy a $3.9 million grant through its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) division. This grant funds a 3-year initiative. During that time, researchers will test and demonstrate the way the high-frequency microwave beam tech functions at increasing depths, pressure levels, temperatures and other factors.