31 August 2020

Strada Global: Why we need to rethink the map on Geothermal

For decades, everything we’ve known about geothermal potential has been modelled on a map that shows available resources in some parts of the world, but not others. We need to change that mindset and make people aware that we’re standing on vast resources of geothermal heat, wherever we are in the world. 


When it comes to geothermal, there are hurdles in people’s minds. They think their country doesn’t have geothermal energy, or it’s too expensive to get to. Or there’s just a simple lack of understanding about what geothermal is and how it can be harnessed for energy. And that’s exactly what we want to address.


What is geothermal energy, and where is it found? 


Geothermal energy is heat generated from the earth’s core. It’s a relatively simple concept, under your feet, wherever you are in the world, there’s a depth where you’re going to have heat. If you can access temperatures great enough, then you can produce baseload electricity, district heating or cooling, or use it for water desalination.  


However, we still see a lot of confusion about geothermal resources and their resource potential. For example, when J.P. Morgan published their 10th Annual Energy Paper in June 2020, it was interesting to read that they had defined ‘ultra deep’ geothermal energy as hydrothermal reservoirs measured at 400-500 degrees Celsius. This of course is so hot that it will melt everything that comes into contact with it. If you are classifying ultra deep geothermal energy as reservoirs of magma only, then of course, there are going to be hurdles to accessing it and therefore some technology development. 


What we’d like to state is that geothermal energy is heat, regardless of what capacity it exists in, whether that’s magma, or whether that’s hot rock that exists beneath the surface which can be accessed for energy. Really identifying what ultra deep, or deep geothermal energy is should be a primary concern for everyone in our industry. There’s so much that needs to be demystified, from Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) to Hot Dry Rock (HDR), Hot Wet Rock (HWR) and ground source heat pumps.


For decades, we’ve had maps of ‘available’ geothermal resources, and countries are still getting advice based on these maps, either that they have geothermal energy or they don’t. Our technology has been designed to make accessing deep geothermal resources achievable and affordable – regardless of where you are.


So why are geothermal projects slow to get started? 


Technology has held geothermal back. Historically, projects have used drilling technology that was designed for oil and gas. When it came to deeper geothermal projects, the technology wasn’t up to standard, it was slow, costly and inefficient.


That’s where our technology makes a difference. The difference with Strada’s Fluid Hammer Operating System is that it is the pinnacle of proven, tried and tested technologies, wrapped in a unique system.

Percussion drilling has been done for a long time, and it’s nothing new. Mud rotary drilling has been done for a long time and it’s nothing new. We are simply using a mud percussion system. A fluid lifts the cuttings, so the knowledge of engineers who are used to working with muds and fluids on a typical oil or gas well can be directly applied to our system. The percussion drilling knowledge that hundreds of drillers know very well can be directly applied to our system as well. It’s just the best of both worlds. 


New revolutionary techniques like plasma drilling and laser drilling – they sound sexy, but they’re still in testing and their systems still need to be proved. Whereas I feel that at Strada, we’re the opposite. We’re not sexy, we’re tried, we’re tested and we’re just a combination of the best parts of existing drilling systems, patented into a method and a technology which we feel can achieve great things. We don’t have to do twenty years of testing to know that this is the solution, because there has already been a hundred years of testing on both these systems behind us. 


The one thing we’d like people to know? It’s simple. It’s a simple solution to a very complicated problem. And we’re very proud of that. 


You can watch our animation here to see how our system works. The benefits are clear, from the flushing of the bit face and lifting the cuttings to driving a hammer into great depths, without huge amounts of pressure needed when drilling with air. 

Is the drilling industry keeping up? 


There is a lot of incumbent thinking within the drilling industry, that sometimes we need to challenge. Sometimes projects won’t accept percussion drill bits in their drill programme, even when they know rotary bits will struggle and blow out costs. That’s where the developed mindsets of the past need to change if they want to deliver more time-efficient and profitable geothermal projects.

If you’ve got soft rock to deal with, then by all means, go for mud rotary drilling. It’s tried, it’s proven, it’s tested. We’re not trying to take that market. We’re just focusing on hard rock drilling, which no one has been able to do economically. 


The future of geothermal for Strada


It’s a very exciting time for Strada. People can see the benefits of our hammer, and the demand for it is so significant, that our focus is on meeting that demand right now, not waiting for the demand to grow with us! 


My overriding hope for our company is that we can live up to the potential of what this hammer can achieve. If we know that our hammer can solve some of the world’s biggest problems, it’s our duty to bring it to market as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible.