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24 April 2020

Unlocking The Potential of Geothermal Could Provide All The Energy The World Will Ever Need

By Ben Strange, CEO, Strada Global

One of the biggest challenges facing mankind today is our quest to transition to renewable energy. We need a stable, constant energy source that doesn’t harm our planet. Geothermal energy generation is clean, renewable and cost-effective over the long term, and the world has vast, untapped geothermal resources. So why is it still operating on the sidelines? 

Compared to other renewables, geothermal energy hasn’t taken off in the same way – still providing around 1% of electricity worldwide. There’s no problem with supply, the heat within 10km of the earth’s surface contains roughly 50,000 times the equivalent energy of the world’s oil and gas resources. Geothermal energy also sidesteps the problems that affect so many other clean sources of energy. It is always available, regardless of whether the wind blows or the sun shines. Geothermal offers an attractive source of clean, reliable baseload electricity. 

But we’re not using its full potential. Why? It’s down to a combination of technical and non-technical barriers that have, up until now, limited this abundant energy resource. At Strada, we believe our technology has an important role to play in reducing development time frames, cutting drilling costs and improving exploration and production – all of which are essential to unlocking geothermal’s full potential. 

Here are a few of the common barriers to geothermal projects, and how we believe our technology can be implemented to overcome them.

 

Cost

Geothermal projects are often characterised by high upfront costs and long development timelines that lead to protracted investment payback periods compared to many other utility-scale power generation projects. These factors create risk for developers, tying up capital for long periods of time and making it difficult to obtain cost-effective financing. 

Drilling costs can account for 50% or more of the total capital costs for a geothermal energy project, which makes reducing drilling costs one of the most important factors to ensure geothermal energy production can become economically viable.

Our solution: We believe our patented and tested Fluid Hammer Operating System (FHOS) is capable of reducing drilling costs by up to 70% in comparison to existing technologies, due to faster drilling, longer drill bit life and reduced mobilisation costs. (See the Lloyds Register Technology and Risk Assessment Report for our patented FHOS system). Lowering development costs and improving overall project economics can reduce developer risk and improve the value of geothermal projects for investors.

 

Technology

The risks and challenges encountered while drilling deep, high-temperature geothermal wells are broadly similar to those in the oil and gas industry – although these industries are vastly different in scale. Oil and gas companies are accustomed to drilling risks, and have successfully leveraged new technologies to minimise resource risks and costs. However geothermal drilling tends to be in harder ground, and has a utility style return instead of a oil and gas return, therefore drilling costs have a much higher requirement to be cost-effective than traditional drilling applications. 

‘Drilling costs constitute a substantial portion of the total cost of geothermal energy. The performance of the whole geothermal industry stands to improve – and a larger portion of the geothermal resource would become economically accessible – if drilling costs could be dramatically reduced and supplemented by improved drilling methods and novel exploration techniques.’ International Energy Agency, Technology Roadmap: Geothermal Heat and Power 

Our solution: Our patented FHOS system uniquely combines the advantages and safety aspects of the two leading drilling systems – combining the mud rotary system with the high penetration rates in hard formations found in air hammer percussion drilling systems, and can be easily adapted to most drilling rigs. This game-changing technology enables us to unlock limitless energy potential, reducing costs and improving efficiency with hard-rock drilling. 

 

Time

Currently, the risks associated with long development timelines for geothermal projects delay payback on initial investments and increase project financing costs. From tangible costs such as equipment and materials as well as intangible costs such as drilling time and downtime while drill bits are replaced all add up, making many projects economically inaccessible.  

Our solution: At Strada, we set out to make geothermal a more attractive investment through better, more innovative and efficient drilling technology. Our patented FHOS system decreases drilling time and fuel expenditure throughout projects, reducing payback periods. Considerably faster drilling, with a lot less wear on down hole hardware and longer drill bit life means Strada’s technology is extremely productive and cost effective. In addition, our technology can be utilised with a smaller rig and corresponding smaller site requirements which again results in overall savings. 

 

Geography

Historically, many geothermal projects that require drilling have been restricted by geography to regions close to tectonic plate boundaries, or seismically active ‘hotspots’ where there is shallow access to geothermal heat. But seismically active hotspots are not the only places where geothermal energy can be found. Deep drilling technology at depths of 4-10 km below the surface can unlock the potential of a vast supply of largely untapped geothermal resource. 

Our solution: Strada’s low cost and fast deep drilling methods make many projects possible and profitable, irrespective of resource depth and local geology. Up until now, drilling this quickly and efficiently in hard terrain has only been possible in certain geographies and has been limited by depth. With our technology, whether it is subsea or on land, that map is unlimited. 

 

At Strada, we believe that technology can solve one of the biggest challenges facing the planet today – the search for clean, renewable energy. We’re excited to be playing our part in accelerating the global energy system to power our future with the limitless energy source right beneath our feet.