Innovative drilling tech could unlock enough geothermal energy to power the globeNovember 29, 2022
Quaise Energy is developing the world’s deepest hole digger.
The U.S.-based energy company seeks to unlock geothermal energy on a global scale with its millimeter wave drilling technology, and is developing a drilling rig designed to reach 10 miles (16 km) underground.
The machine will tap into clean energy from geothermal heat in the Earth’s crust.
According to the company, digging the world’s deepest hole has the potential to provide access to enough renewable energy to power the plant.
“The total energy content of the heat stored underground exceeds our annual energy demand as a planet by a factor of a billion,” said Matthew Houde, co-founder and project manger at Quaise Energy. “So tapping into a fraction of that is more than enough to meet our energy needs for the foreseeable future.”
Houde explained that the problem with unlocking geothermal energy potential today is that it’s not possible to drill deep enough to access the energy because key technology is lacking.
Quaise’s innovative technology to unlock geothermal energy could be a game changer.
Quaise energy’s new technology does not rely on traditional drilling methods. It replaces drill bits with millimeter wave energy. This millimeter wave energy is designed to melt and vaporize rock to create deeper holes.
For the past 15 years the technology has been in development at MIT. Using the technology, scientists have demonstrated that it is possible for millimeter waves to drill a hole in basalt. According to Houde, this makes the tech ideal to break through that hot, hard, crystalline rock that is challenging for traditional drilling to penetrate through.
That said, for maximum drilling results, the company also uses traditional drilling methods for the softer rock that is closer to the surface as the millimeter wave technology does not perform as well on those formations.
To date, the deepest hole that’s been drilled to tap into geothermal energy is the Kola borehole, which reaches just 7.6 miles. Reaching this depth took 20 years due to conventional machines lacking the ability to withstand the harsh conditions at those depths. Houde said that it would take hundreds if not thousands of Kola boreholes to scale geothermal to the capacity that is needed.
“If we can get to ten miles down, we can start to find economic temperatures everywhere,” said Houde. “Our current plan is to drill the first holes in the field in the next few years.”
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