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09 October 2019

It’s Time For A Geothermal Revolution

by Ben Strange, CEO, Strada Global

Geothermal energy has always been a tantalising prospect in the search for alternatives to fossil fuels.  It is thought to have the potential to be the cost-effective, sustainable, consistent, and environmentally friendly source of energy that the world needs to reduce emissions and slow climate change.    Compared to other renewable sources, geothermal has them all beat when it comes to things like reliability, consistency and impact on the environment.  The only trouble is, deep geothermal resources can be very difficult to access.  While it’s potential is enormous, only a tiny fraction of the geothermal resources available to us can currently be accessed.  Drilling for deep resources is (at best) often prohibitive because of the terrain or cost or (at worst) simply cannot be done at all.  And for a long time, this has remained the case.

In contrast to all other renewable energy sources, the use of geothermal has been relatively slow to develop.   Inventors, innovators, engineers and governments have focused their attention and time on sources which, while not ideal, were easier to get at in the short-term, and therefore lower risk. The heat of the sun, the movement of the ocean, and the wind are all within our direct reach, even if they are unpredictable and inefficient to access.   However, as we stand on the brink of climate change that could result in disaster, just because something is hard does not mean we should give up on it – in fact it means we cannot.

We come from a family of drillers; my grandfather and great-grandfather drilled water bores in the outback of Western Australia. Over the years, we have specialised in reverse circulation drilling, which produces rock samples to analyse for mineral deposits. Improving drilling methods and safety has always been important to us – we have a track-record of adapting our drilling equipment to make them more efficient and safer. We’ve spent generations in this industry, innovating and inventing the way we drill and as a result, we’ve developed an extensive drilling-related patent portfolio, and redesigned drilling from the ground down. So, when we saw the issues the geothermal industry faced with drilling in hard granite, we knew we had the drilling knowledge and the IP to turn the problem around and finally solve those challenges.

By developing low-cost, efficient deep drilling methods, we believe that we have a system that will make many geothermal projects viable and affordable, irrespective of resource depth and local geology. Until now, drilling for geothermal energy has only been possible in certain geographies and parts of the world with shallow or accessible resources. With our technology, we believe the map is unlimited.  For this reason, after several challenging years trying to bring this technology to market, I am delighted to say that we began water hammer testing this month.  When our testing is complete at the end of the year, I hope to be able to share results which will mean that the world will be able to drill through deep-hard rock terrain in an affordable and sustainable way. It could be a game-changer for accessing hot dry rock geothermal energy and the way the world is powered.