The Man Who Could Finally Solve the Geothermal Puzzle: The huge potential of geothermal energy to meet the climate and energy crises has always been outweighed by its problems. With Eavor, John Redfern believes he’s found the solution. (JOSH SIMS, December 7, 2023, Inside Hook
Their idea is deceptively simple. Traditional geothermal technology has to target an aquifer, and then use a form of fracking, forcing water into and then out of the very hot permeable rock underground, creating steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity, but losing about 50% of the energy in the pumping process.
Instead, Eavor’s plan is to drill two eight-inch-wide wells down several miles, then drill laterally some more miles and connect them, thus making a huge closed loop. Then, through conduction, they’ll let the water flow through it, the large surface area of the bores being super-heated by the surrounding rock. That’s one loop of maybe 10 loops in a major plant.
“It’s just like a big radiator,” as Redfern describes it, making the hard-to-do sound very simple.
In another sense, he says, it’s the reverse of one of the oil industry’s ways of extracting oil sands, in which drilled wells allow heat to be injected underground to loosen the sands and allow the oil to be removed.
Eavor’s “closed-loop’ system — the Eavor-Loop — has been working towards full-scale operation for a few years. The company launched Eavor Lite, a small-scale proof-of-concept plant in 2019, and followed that with Eavor Deep in New Mexico late last year, which proved the technology could be used in, for example, granite rock and super-high temperatures, environments that the traditional oil and gas industry avoid.
Now, among several Eavor projects in the works, the most advanced is a $325 million Eavor-Loop under construction in Bavaria, Germany, on the site of a decommissioned power plant and funded in part by a grant from the EU Innovation Fund. Drilling began this July, and it’s expected to take three years to produce four loops — amounting to 150 miles of wells in total, 2.5 miles deep and coping with temperatures around 302 degrees Fahrenheit — though power is expected to come online in October 2024 when the first loop is complete. With that, Eavor expects its idea to be commercially proven.
“That’s a lot of drilling,” notes Redfern. “Never since Bruce Willis and Armageddon has there been the potential for the world to be saved by a bunch of drillers drilling holes.”
Drill, baby, drill.