Disturbing a dormant volcano might seem ill-advised, but that's what a company will do this month in a bid to exploit an untapped source of clean energy.
Engineers working for Seattle-based AltaRock Energy and the firm's partners have been given the green light by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM)to start injecting water into a series of connected cracks 3 kilometres down at Oregon's Newberry volcano (pictured, right). Their goal is to heat the water, before returning it to the surface as steam to drive turbines and generate electricity.
Geothermal power projects usually tap into naturally convecting hot water below Earth's surface, but most geothermal energy is actually stored in impermeable hot rocks.
The $44-million Newberry project is one of a new wave of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) that aims to exploit these rocks by fracturing them with pressurised water. This boosts permeability enough to support geothermal operations.
With reports only recently confirming that fracking is not, as long as its properly regulated, the earthquake-generating terror we thought it was, a U.S. geothermal company has decided it’s a great idea to extract clean energy from a dormant volcano by hydrofracking its hot underbelly to generate steam.
AltaRock Energy and Davenport Newberry, the companies behind the $43 million plan, have been granted a permit to hydrofrack thehot rocks flanking the Newberry volcano in Oregon, where Davenport Newberry has secured federal leases on 62 square miles of land. This will involve injecting water into a series of cracks in the rocks at a high enough pressure that it reaches three kilometres beneath the surface, fracturing connected veins of rock to access the heat beneath and creating a series of connected geothermal reservoirs in the process. Water will be introduced to these reservoirs, where heat from the rocks will turn it to steam, which then turns turbines at surface-level to generate electricity.