LPRC joins PRO-ACT project TRR session

On 16 February 2021, the PRO-ACT project had its TRR – Test Readiness Review – meeting with the EC and an elected group of space experts – the PSA. Our team took part of this meeting to present results on the preparation of the artificial lunar analogue for the final demonstrations.

The meeting got together all the project partners and reviewers to show results, analyse outcomes and prepare the final demonstrationa activities in a series of presentations and organic discussions. The presentations mainly about WP4 – Manufacturing, Assembly, Integration and Test. As part of the work developed under this Work Package, LPRC (Luís Lopes) presented the design and preparation of the lunar analogue for the final project demonstrations. This lunar analogue is established in Bremen, Germany, at DFKI’s (one of the project partners facilitites). Luís gave an overview of the activities that resulted in the creation of this artificial lunar analogue, including details on the testbed, the simulant chosen as regolith representative and the distribution of the testing elements in the available space.

Follow the PRO-ACT website for more news on this exciting project!

Trends in geothermal, 16th February 2021 part 2: technology

The first part of the Baseload Trend’s geothermal webinar focused on hurdles linked to financing in new technologies and emerging trends. With regards to geothermal, the trends for the future unfold in three aspects: shallow geothermal, deep geothermal and thermal storage.

Shallow geothermal has received more and more attention recently due to the decentralisation of the energy market. Local energy demand and concepts such as energy communities are trending due to the unlikeliness of large scale and centralized power plants to meet heat and electricity requirements of all communities throughout a region, especially those most remote. In the past, geothermal would not have been able to meet these spikes in demand. Fortunately, advances in technologies, heat exchangers and miniaturization enable smaller plants and heat pumps to provide affordable and competitive energy to smaller markets. In addition, micro-grids for small markets are easier and quicker to develop than extensive grid system joining large power plants to remote and smaller energy demand. This local approach will ensure that small communities are not behind the renewable energy curve – especially important to make sure that countries will meet climate target, by ensuring a comprehensive renewable energy grid whilst promoting a fair transition where each individual has access to local affordable clean energy without bearing the costs of long and complex grid to dispatch energy home. Finally, local energy disables the need to depend on foreign oil, gas and electricity thus improving national energy security and making prices less volatile.

Main themes and subtopics of the overall CHPM concept: exploration, development, operation, market. CHPM2030 developed a concept for a new geothermal-related technology.

Shallow geothermal is only one face of the “geothermal trend coin”. Deep geothermal has a complementary role to shallow in any national grid. Whilst, shallow geothermal often implies smaller power plants (or heat pumps) for less energy demanding markets, deep geothermal often implies higher temperatures and thus higher power outputs for more energy demanding markets. Two main trends are foreseen for deep geothermal in a near future: first, scalability of operations thanks to lessons learned from the oil and gas industry (it would be possible to take lessons learned from these technologies to apply them to new geothermal fields); second, economies of scale could greatly benefit from geothermal deep drilling in the future since more drilling would reduce the marginal cost of each plant by incorporating the lessons learned from past experiences. Finally, experts believe that the future of deep geothermal plants is ultradeep rigs (around 10km deep). Such high depth is on the horizon thanks to drilling techniques developed by the oil industry. Almost any point of the globe reaches very high temperatures (around 200°C) at such depths meaning that any place could, theoretically, be producing large quantities of clean energy for decades.

Energy production is not the only benefit of geothermal. This renewable source has the added value to be able to be suited for thermal energy storage. Thermal energy storage (TES) is a technology that stocks thermal energy by heating or cooling a storage medium so that the stored energy can be used at a later time for heating and cooling applications and power generation. Wind and solar may be better at delivering the cheapest net kW/h, but storage is cheaper for geothermal. This is important because different perks of different energy sources emulate the best in each or in a comprehensive energy mix. Geothermal energy and thermal storage will be able to form the baseload power of an energy mix whilst fluctuating power sources such as wind and solar will supply peaks in demand. In the end, there is no silver bullet to fight climate change but, rather, a comprehensive system of clean technologies enabling a secure and fair carbon transition.

For more information on groundbreaking geothermal technologies that LPRC was a part of, consider checking out the CHPM2030 project that combine heat and power production to mining: https://www.chpm2030.eu/!

Trends in geothermal, 16th February 2021 part 1: investment

On the 16 February 2021, Baseload Capital (an investing firm) hosted its webinar on upcoming trends in the geothermal sector. Its philosophy is to act as a catalyst for green baseload electricity by funding renewable energy projects throughout the world. Currently, the company has subsidiaries in Iceland, Japan and Taiwan, which work with local communities and power companies to permit, build and commission heat power plants.

The first half of this two-part article will focus on investment in geothermal and what the future is holding for finance in energy. Geothermal represents an interesting case study for financing carbon neutrality. However, with only 2% of the global energy market, geothermal is lacking behind other energies despite its upsides: available 24/7, 365 days a year independently of weather, outside temperature or time of the day. In addition, it can serve as a baseload power (minimum amount of electric power needed to be supplied to the electrical grid at any given time) for any renewable energy mix. Day to day trends of power usage need to be met by power plants, however it is not optimal for power plants to produce the maximum needed power at all times. Geothermal power plants have average availabilities of 90% or higher, compared to about 75% for coal plants. Geothermal power is homegrown, reducing our dependence on foreign oil. So, if geothermal is so convenient why is it lagging behind other energy sources?

Geothermal suffers from several misconceptions that are often afflicting new investment opportunities. First, the Kodak core business model is a good example of neglecting new emerging trends for already established goods and services. We all know what happened to Kodak and printed photos. But the question is: would we really have acted differently if we had been in their shoes? Many examples since then seem to indicate that we tend to misjudge the potential of emerging technologies.

Second, connecting dots. Some technologies are on the shelf because their fullest potential can only be met by combining them with other technologies. When identifying 2 or more trends with inherent potential, they can create a whole new concept sparking new business opportunities in a market. Going back to geothermal, this concept is incredibly relevant. On one hand, it is a fact that energy demand is rising. On the other, the energy industry realizes that power production (heat and electricity) is too centralised and thus could face problems to reach the widespread growing demand. In parallel, it has been apparent that geothermal energy opened new opportunities for building medium and low-grade power plants for heat able to meet local demand that previously did not make sense financially. An example of this is Iceland: local communities have a growing demand for clean energy yet most of electricity production is generated around the capital Reykjavik. These conditions are perfect for local distributed geothermal power to supply local communities with affordable, clean energy based on low temperature heat.

Third, discovering new trends. Trends create momentum in a market when many people are affected by it. A large, invested community increases the likelihood of a successful emerging trend. In essence, it boils that to marketing: capturing the imagination of a targeted community with business opportunities or services that can benefit them or society as a whole. For instance, geothermal tends to be the fields of experts, scientists and selected groups of individuals. Whilst, this group produces a lot of positive ideas, disruptive technologies and discussions, outcomes tend to circulate into the same circle, depriving the overall field of a greater reach. Hence, these trends are de facto on a shelf waiting to be discovered by the wide public. Incidentally, being on the shelf does not allow one trend to find an application that would have a positive snowball effect on society.

Therefore, nowadays it is likely that new trends and investments in geothermal will focus on meeting the energy demands of local communities whilst being integrated to the economical ecosystem. A geothermal power plant could provide district heating for neighbouring homes, heat for local organic greenhouses, hot water for the local swimming pool or spa and countless other solutions benefiting communities. This comprehensive approach does not only benefit investors but has lasting positive impacts on future generations. Said impact could also be the added value needed to increase the social acceptance of geothermal. By integrating communities, businesses and private citizens in their local energy ecosystem a lasting relationship between energy producers and customers can be achieved.

For more information on citizens’ empowerment in geothermal check out the CROWDTHERMAL website: https://www.crowdthermalproject.eu/!

LPRC at UNEXUP’s 2nd Progress Meeting

On Wednesday (03/02) the UNEXUP consortium held the Second Progress meeting (online). The purpose of Progress Meetings is to discuss and update the work accomplished within each of the Work Packages, and to collect input from the Advisory Board regarding the future steps to be pursued. In this opportunity, the WP leaders presented their work, followed by questions and an open discussion about specific topics to be prioritized in the upcoming weeks and months.

As Work Package Leader on Communication, dissemination and outreach – WP4, LPRC (Márcio Tameirão) presented the main activities, reports, events and outreach materials related to the tasks that LPRC is responsible for: Communication and dissemination management, Outreach support toolkit, and Increasing market interest. The presentation covered the upcoming plans on the communication strategy, which will be strongly connected with the Work Package responsible for the commercialization of the UNEXUP technology (UNEXMIN GeoRobotics). New materials will be developed, and the messaging will be progressively changed from “awareness raising” to “advertising”, as new robotic advancements are achieved by the technology developers of the project.

The Work Package 4 present by LPRC

ROBOMINERS project Review Meeting

On 29 January 2021, the ROBOMINERS project had its first review meeting with the EC. Our team was present as leaders of Work Package 8 to assess and discuss the main outcomes.

The review meeting, which lasted the whole Friday, was built around presentations of the work done since the beginning of the project until now. Each Work Package leader presented the results and engaged in fruitful discussions with the EC to clarify doubts and employ recommendations for improvement. As a Work Package leader, LPRC (Luís Lopes) made the presentation on Work Package 8 – Active roadmapping and clusters. Luís gave an overview of the clustering activities developed and implemented up to now, as well as the Focus Groups and Horizon Scanning exercises with experts. The presentation of the work was well received and no major doubts or recommendations were put forward.

Work Package 8 presentation (Luís Lopes)

The efforts of clustering and roadmapping will continue in the next months with a series of engaging activities!

LPRC @ Webinar – Recent installations, implications for the future of geothermal in Turkey

On Friday 29, Gauthier Quinonez (LPRC) attended the latest IGN online webinar on geothermal energy organized by Enerchange (PR and Event Agency focusing on renewable energy) and Think GeoEnergy (leading newspaper on geothermal). The event focused on the particular case of Turkish geothermal, its characteristics and future.

Top that occasion, the board invited Gad Shoshan (chairman at the board at the Israel-Turkey business council and chamber of commerce and managing director at Ormat Inc.) to discuss the current state of play. Ormat is a global renewable energy provider based in Reno (Nevada). The company has the particularity to be verse in multiple renewable energy sources (geothermal and recovered energy) as well as energy storage. In addition, with regards to geothermal, they managed to vertically integrate all phases of geothermal (Development, exploration, drilling, engineering, manufacturing, construction, operation and stakeholder management).

First of all, even though Turkey has become famous of over the past decade for its rapid and sustained development of geothermal, the country is still highly reliant on fossil fuels for domestic electricity production (Fig. 1). However, 3 caveats shall be made on this current status. First, all but one active Turkish power plants opened after 2006, highlighting the impressive capacity to adapt to new resources. Second, Turkish geothermal potential hasn’t been reached yet, indicating a possible growing share of geothermal electricity in the Turkish market for the future. Third, most fossil fuel consumption is linked to import from the East, highlighting a threat in local energy security and Turkish authorities made no secret about the need for a change in this matter.

Figure 1: Turkey’s electricity generation per resource

As per January 2021, geothermal energy’s output in Turkey is 1.6 GW produced by 77 power plants (with a mix of Organic Rankine Cycle[1] and flash). Although 77 power plants may seem like a high number for the country it does not meet the high demand of 84 million Turkish and does not cover the huge local geothermal potential. Figure 2 shows current knowledge of Turkish geothermal potential (red areas) and locations of operational plants (ref triangles). Based on the map, it can be concluded that Central and Eastern Anatolia are underexploited vis-à-vis their potential. In addition, there is still a lack of exploration and research to determine the true potential of the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.

Figure 2: Turkish geothermal potential

All and all, the Turkish geothermal case study proves that the technology can be developed quickly and efficiently (76 power plants in under 15 years) despite a somewhat shaken economy (current devaluation of YLT and high unemployment). Lessons can be learned globally from the Turkish case.

[1] Organic Rankine Cycle is a technology that convert low-temperature heat sources into a mechanical energy, and it can be used to produce electrical energy in a closed system.

Register for the ROBOMINERS project webinar!

On 18 February 2021 the ROBOMINERS project is organising a webinar on “Small and very-small scale robotic mining: deposit types and opportunities for Europe”.

The aim of this virtual event is to:

  • Provide an overview of abandoned mines in Europe and their potential
  • Discuss the challenges of reopening an old mine
  • Outline the different steps from the discovery of a deposit until the opening of a mine
  • Present expected contributions of the ROBOMINERS technology to resume operations in abandoned mines where the application of conventional technologies is not relevant

The webinar is scheduled for 14:00-16:15 CET and speakers will be announced in the coming days.

To sign up for this free webinar, please register here: https://bit.ly/3cn2i9d

Register and join the discussion on the future mining opportunities in Europe!

Recap of the “Focus on Geothermal – Energy for the Weekend” Webinar

How can deep geothermal be green whilst releasing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere?

The figure below seems to indicate that deep geothermal energy is not as green as it could be assumed, in some instances reaching levels of emissions comparable to fossil fuels energy sources (gas, coal and oil). However, this graph is a simplification of what is really at stakes. First of all, geothermal emissions here are presented as life-long emission meaning resulting from exploration, drilling, building the plant, manufacturing of all the parts, operation and decommission. All but stages but operation are CO2 emissions that currently cannot be avoided because of the reliance on fossil-fuel for manufacturing any part and the value chain in general.

With regards to CO2 emissions during geothermal operation one might wonder why an energy source that does not burn fossil fuel nor carbon content still produces GHG emissions. And this is due to the CO2 content into the water reservoir from which heat is extracted. Think about a bottle of sparkling water when the lid is on, there is no bubble rising to the surface of the water and therefore no gas can expand, in short: CO2 is dissolute in the water, the system is sealed. Once you open the bottle, you witness this characteristic “pop” (due to expanding gases) followed by a rush of CO2 bubbles to the surface that then make their way to the atmosphere: the system is open.

Deep geothermal reservoirs, which are polluting, function in the very same manner as a bottle of sparkling water (albeit at much higher pressure). Drilling to a geothermal reservoir in order to harvest its heat means opening a closed system. The presence of CO2 in deep geothermal reservoirs is a naturally occurring phenomenon linked to Earth magmatic events and decay of any living organism.

Luckily, geothermal CO2 emissions during operation can be mitigated, as Hörmann Grupp presented, there are ways to make a geothermal operation 100% green. Their experiments were based on a pre-existing body of literature on carbon capture. During their tests, they further confirmed that it is possible to capture CO2 released from the brine and reinject it in the geothermal reservoir so that it never pollutes the atmosphere. Furthermore, thanks to the high pressure put on the CO2, it dissolves into the water thus not perturbing the heat exchange critical for any geothermal plant.

Experiments and new technologies are improving geothermal each day making the energy greener and more reliable than ever. It is really a breakthrough that will untroubledly help trigger a massive growth of geothermal in the energy market worldwide.

LPRC during 2020 – a summary

The past year was an atypical one, there is no denying it. Despite the many problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, LPRC still managed to keep up with its work plans. All team activities – where the EU-funded projects are of most importance – ran successfully. Although not without a certain degree of adaptation. A quick summary of our activities on each of our EU projects during 2020 is given below:

INTERMIN: LPRC participated in the project’s main discussions and contributed with dissemination activities. The team’s biggest workshare was done in 2019 regarding WP2 – Raw Materials Sector Skills, Gaps and Needs.

MACARONIGHT: In 2020, LPRC coordinated the second installment of  the MACARONIGHT project after its success in 2o19. Coordination included preparation and monitoring of activities in different islands as well as analysis of the outcomes.

PRO-ACT: For this space project, LPRC contributed with geological information for the preparation of the lunar analogues where the robotic elements shall be tested during 2021. LPRC also presented the project during the EGU 2020 event.

ROBOMINERS: LPRC leads WP8 – Active clustering and roadmapping – and during 2020 the team contributed to the exchange of information with several projects and initiatives, kickstarted Focus Groups discussions and launched the Horizon Scanning activities. LPRC also contributed with the dissemination of the project at several opportunities.

AGEO: Within AGEO, the team leads communication and dissemination efforts. In 2020, besides the outreach efforts, LPRC also contributed to strengthening the impact of the project by leveraging communication with other EU projects and initiatives.

CROWDTHERMAL: During 2020, LPRC’s role was two-fold. First, the team largely contributed to the communication efforts with the management of social media channels and preparation of material such as factsheets. Second, LPRC kickstarted activities for WP4 – Integrated Development Schemes, which it leads.

ENGIE: LPRC started discussions and prepared ENGIE-related activities for the Researchers Night in 2020. For this task, LPRC hosted a high number of (online) workshops. The team also contributed with dissemination of the project, as seen with its participation on the EGU 2020 event.

UNEXUP: Continuing LPRC’s tasks from UNEXMIN, in UNEXUP the team also leads dissemination efforts. Therefore, LPRC was responsible for the development of all outreach material – both online and physical. Another important task, was the team’s contribution to the market analysis and go-to-market strategy set for the project’s implementation.

MOBI-US: Within this education-based project LPRC had two main tasks. It led outreach efforts during the whole year with the development and implementation of dissemination actions. The other relevant task was the contribution to the major guidelines for the implementation of the MOBI-US network. Here, LPRC contributed with an extensive analysis on the current and future gaps of the raw materials sector.

Besides contributing to EU-projects LPRC was also active in other areas including policy analysis, science communication and use of foresight methodologies.

We hope to have an even better 2021 with more projects and more work!

LPRC participates at “Geo-Energy Operations: Opportunities and Challenges” webinar

On the 16 December, The Welding Institute hosted its webinar titled “Geo-Energy Operations: Opportunities and Challenges Confirmation”. TWI is a global leader in technology engineering providing research and consultancy to its members.

The session was focused on one research question: “Why is geothermal still the hidden champion of energy?”. Geothermal has a very high potential on Earth. As a matter of fact, 99.6% of the planet is above 500 degrees Celsius, which begs the questions, why relying so much on oil and gas?

In addition, geothermal is a baseload power. Baseload power refers to the minimum amount of electric power needed to be supplied to the electrical grid at any given time. Day to day trends of power usage need to be met by power plants, however it is not optimal for power plants to produce the maximum needed power at all times. Earth’s warmth is not dependent on the time of the day, season or weather, it stays warm and will continue to stay warm for billions of years.

On top of potential and availability, recent developments in technology and general economies of scale have pushed geothermal competitiveness to the forefront of the energy race. Figure 1 showcases the unsubsidized cost of alternative and conventional energy sources. Two conclusions can be drawn from this graph; first, being unsubsidized levelized costs; second, although more competitive, biomass and wind have their drawbacks.

Conventional and alternative energy costs.

The ambitious vision developed for geothermal is challenged by a slow growth and implementation of geothermal worldwide. The International Geothermal Association  highlights that geothermal Growth rate of geothermal is only 3%, which is not enough to meet UNDP (United Nation Program for Development) Objective 7 – focusing on clean and affordable energy for all. To reach this global objective, the annual growth rate of geothermal (electricity, heating and cooling) needs to be 9 to 12%. Market studies suggest that the main hurdles to overcome include initial investment and public perception. Realistically, these two notions boil down to one simple concept: trust.

Investment relates to a trust into geothermal to yield positive return on investment while maximising the cost management of operations. Academic studies suggest that trust in geothermal can be raised via sharing best practices and technical development leading to cost reduction. This combination of actions enabled a noticeable growth in solar and wind power generation over the past decade.

Finally, trust is also capital when discussing public perception of geothermal energy. Best practices across the globe demonstrate that successful geothermal projects are synonymous with open and trustworthy communication with local communities. In the words of Marit Brommer, Executive Director at IGA: “both geothermal experts and non-experts shall discuss with the public about geothermal. The public shall always be engaged openly and with non-technical jargon to ensure clear communication and more importantly: dialogue. These open discussions will not only benefit the geothermal world but society as a whole.”.

Will 2021 bring new opportunities for geothermal energy?