Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can We Turn Unwanted Carbon Dioxide Into Electricity?

13.12.2013
New power plant design to expand use of geothermal energy in the U.S.

Researchers are developing a new kind of geothermal power plant that will lock away unwanted carbon dioxide (CO2) underground – and use it as a tool to boost electric power generation by at least 10 times compared to existing geothermal energy approaches.

The technology to implement this design already exists in different industries, so the researchers are optimistic that their new approach could expand the use of geothermal energy in the U.S. far beyond the handful of states that can take advantage of it now.

At the American Geophysical Union meeting on Friday, Dec. 13, the research team debuted an expanded version of the design, along with a computer animated movie that merges advances in science with design and cognitive learning techniques to explain the role that energy technologies can have in addressing climate change.

The new power plant design resembles a cross between a typical geothermal power plant and the Large Hadron Collider: It features a series of concentric rings of horizontal wells deep underground. Inside those rings, CO2, nitrogen and water circulate separately to draw heat from below ground up to the surface, where the heat can be used to turn turbines and generate electricity.

The design contrasts with conventional geothermal plants, explained study co-author Jeffrey Bielicki, assistant professor of energy policy in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

“Typical geothermal power plants tap into hot water that is deep under ground, pull the heat off the hot water, use that heat to generate electricity, and then return the cooler water back to the deep subsurface. Here the water is partly replaced with CO2 or another fluid – or a combination of fluids,” he said.

CO2 extracts heat more efficiently than water, he added.

This approach – using concentric rings that circulate multiple fluids – builds upon the idea to use CO2 originally developed by Martin Saar and others at the University of Minnesota, and can be at least twice as efficient as conventional geothermal approaches, according to computer simulations.

“When we began to develop the idea to use CO2 to produce geothermal energy, we wanted to find a way to make CO2 storage cost-effective while expanding the use of geothermal energy,” said Jimmy Randolph, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

"We hope that we can expand the reach of geothermal energy in the United States to include most states west of the Mississippi River," Bielicki said.

The current research team includes Ohio State, the University of Minnesota and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where geoscientist Tom Buscheck came up with the idea to add nitrogen to the mix.

He and his colleagues believe that the resulting multifluid design will enable geothermal power plants to store energy away – perhaps hundreds of gigawatt hours – for days or even months, so that it is available when the electricity grid needs it. The underground geothermal formation could store hot, pressurized CO2 and nitrogen, and release the heat to the surface power plant when electricity demand is greatest. The plant could also suspend heat extraction from the subsurface during times of low power demand, or when there is already a surplus of renewable power on the grid.

“What makes this concept transformational is that we can deliver renewable energy to customers when it is needed, rather than when the wind happens to be blowing, or when spring thaw causes the greatest runoff,” Buscheck said.

In computer simulations, a 10-mile-wide system of concentric rings of horizontal wells situated about three miles below ground produced as much as half a gigawatt of electrical power – an amount comparable to a medium-sized coal-fired power plant – and more than 10 times bigger than the 38 megawatts produced by the average geothermal plant in the United States.

The simulations also revealed that a plant of this design might sequester as much as 15 million tons of CO2 per year, which is roughly equivalent to the amount produced by three medium-sized coal-fired power plants in that time.

Bielicki noted the possibility of expanding the use of geothermal energy around the country. Right now, most geothermal power plants are in California and Nevada, where very hot water is relatively close to the surface. But the new design is so much more efficient at both storing energy and extracting heat that even smaller-scale “hotspots” throughout the western U.S. could generate power.

The eastern U.S. is mostly devoid of even small hotspots, so geothermal power would still be limited to a few particularly active areas such as West Virginia, he said.

Another caveat: The geothermal plant would probably have to be connected to a large CO2 source, such as a coal-fired power plant that is scrubbing the CO2 from its own emissions. That connection would likely be made by pipeline.

Buscheck added, however, that the study showed that this design could work effectively with or without CO2, and said a pilot plant based on this design could initially be powered solely by nitrogen injection to prove the economic viability of using CO2. The research team is currently working on more detailed computer model simulations and economic analyses for specific geologic settings in the U.S.

The project is unusual in part because, as they were refining their ideas, the engineers joined with Shannon Gilley, then a master of fine arts student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Bielicki worked with Gilley for more than a year to create the computer animated video titled “Geothermal Energy: Enhancing our Future.” Part of Gilley’s task was to communicate the more complex details of climate change, CO2 storage and geothermal energy to the general public.

“We built this concept of public outreach into our efforts not just to communicate our work, but also to explore new ways for scientists, engineers, economists and artists to work together,” Bielicki said.

Co-authors on the presentation also included Mingjie Chen, Yue Hao and Yunwei Sun, all of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Work at the University of Minnesota and Ohio State has been funded by the National Science Foundation, while work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Heat Mining Co. LLC, a startup company spun off from the University of Minnesota, expects to have an operational project, based on an earlier form of the approach, in 2016.

Contacts:
Jeffrey M. Bielicki, (614) 688-2113 or -2131; bielicki.2@osu.edu
Thomas A. Buscheck, (925) 423-9390; buscheck1@llnl.gov
Jimmy B. Randolph, (952) 457-8959; rando035@umn.edu
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu

Pam Frost Gorder | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells
17.07.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

nachricht Behavior-influencing policies are critical for mass market success of low carbon vehicles
17.07.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>