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Australia’s Geothermal Energy Potential

Posted on December 17, 2019 in Blogging Local News

Is it possible for Australia to generate renewable energy from the heated rocks and hot granites that lay low the earth? Will there be enough energy conserved from the exploratory geothermal wells to sustain every Australian’s lifestyle?

The Centre for International Economics, based on a conservative estimate, says that Australia has enough geothermal energy that could help sustain Australia’s electricity for the next 450 years. Parts of central Tasmania alone have been known to be generating up to 280MW of power according to KUTh. And it was also estimated that a per cent of the geothermal energy shallower than 5 km and hotter than a grade of 150°C may already be enough to sustain Australia’s energy requirement for 26,000 years (based on the 2004-05 figures.

While this may serve true, the geothermal industry in Australia is showing promising potential.

Australia’s Geothermal Industry

Geothermal energy is heat energy contained from the earth’s core. Meaning, it is heated from deep within. There were locations near the country’s centre that are popular of containing hot granites at a depth which hold promising potential for the geothermal industry’s development for the country. And because of a probable contribution to Australia’s energy infrastructure, reducing reliance on an expensive source, they have put exploratory geothermal wells into place to further explore. They were drilled into potential areas resulting in future projects and more exploration to seek more and new locations. However, this is continuously challenged by geologic factors. Its possibility relies on the use of a variety of geoscience data in looking for areas of higher potential. 

Investors started to support this as this innovation showed significant progress. It may have generated a large-scale power that could contribute greatly to the economy but once developed, it may just secure Australia of a future energy source. That being said, geothermal power in Australia may be little, but it’s growing fast. 

AUSTRALIA’S GEOTHERMAL ENERGY POTENTIAL

What are its uses for Australia?

While it’s still a continuous industry in the making, Australia uses it for agriculture, other forms of industrial work and for cooling and heating residential buildings.

However, the digging explorations are limited to a drilling capacity of 5 km down since it will require too much energy to go deeper. From here, electricity can be generated using temperatures as low as 100°C but anything that goes beyond this may require larger-scale production.

What are the programs dedicated to the movement?

Certain programs that Australia forms involving geoscience support this cause.

  1. Australian Geoscience ensures they understand where these hot spots for expansion purposes are embedded. As it collaborates with the federal government’s Onshore Energy Security Program which is a program about field logging, it aims to improve the heat flow coverage of Australia. The temperature gradient and thermal conductivity detect the product of heat flow in a borehole which can be used to interpret and predict temperature even in great depths.
  2. OZTemp database measures temperatures from a variety of resources and extrapolating these to the standard 5-km-depth. Explorated temperature may be horizontally interpolated between drill holes. To produce a continuous map of temperature at 5-km-dept, temperature across entire Australia. With Somerville et al. 1994 – Geotherm94 database pioneered at the Bureau of Minerals Resources and the Energy Research and Development.

The Challenges

Most of Australia’s geothermal energy has to be extracted by pumping water from the surface through rocks situated 5-km-below. This is for the water to absorb heat and then circulate it back. And this is how an Enhanced or Engineered Geothermal System was born. While it is hardly generated compared to New Zealand and Iceland where there are a lot of volcanoes to aid the processes, there are other challenges. With economical and technical challenges, where one affects the other seem to be the leading above all due to technology being an expensive investment, yet the most needed. This bleeds into financial challenges affecting operations. Lastly, geographical challenges and policy challenges while depending greatly on the operations may also be expected of sporadic appearances.

Conclusion

Although these challenges seem to be in the way, the industry of geothermal energy has much to offer for Australia.

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