Researchers Combine Fossil, Geothermal Energy Studies

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (OFE) last week said that a group of National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) researchers is working to find ways to effectively use renewable energy resources in combination with fossil energy fuels.

As part of an initiative called Synergistic Fossil Integrations with Renewable Energy, the researchers have focused on identifying safe and sustainable ways to expand the direct use of geothermal energy in the context of electricity generation.

According to OFE, the researchers worked on hybrid combustion/geofluid cycles for energy-producing turbines. This humidified cycle can make use of low-temperature geofluid water, normally applied only for heating, to generate power at higher geofluid efficiencies than typical geothermal cycles, OFE said. The hybrids use less natural gas, per unit of electricity produced, than conventional combustion turbines as well as less water than water-cooled combustion-based power cycles. This approach is known as geothermal humidified air recuperated turbine (geoHART).

In addition, NETL last year investigated the geothermal potential for Camp Dawson, a state-owned, federally funded West Virginia Army National Guard training facility in West Virginia. The facility is located within a geothermal energy hot spot where generation of 14–18 GW of electricity capacity is possible, according to OFE. These technically accessible deep geothermal resources are thought to be suitable for direct-use applications, such as facility heating and industrial processes in manufacturing. Two specific locations were targeted for additional investigation of geothermal options.

OFE said that the team concluded there is a range of potential geothermal opportunities at Camp Dawson, but additional research is needed to reduce the uncertainties of project costs and resource assessment. A second location, the Southpointe Business Park in Pennsylvania could also hold geothermal energy potential.

More research on these opportunities is required.

NETL’s Dan Oryshchyn said that, based on research to date, “combining fossil energy with geothermal energy for on-site power generation can offer risk reductions for power generation, as well as a long-term energy resource.”

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