When it comes to drilling for energy sources, efficiency is the name of the game. The less energy you use to access more energy sources, the more efficient the system. This is beneficial for both financial and ecological reasons. It costs money to use energy, and wasted energy releases greenhouse gasses that pollute the planet. But what if you could harness energy that already exists beneath the surface of the planet? Geothermal energy aims to do just that. Let’s discuss the geothermal drilling process as well as its benefits.
What is Geothermal Drilling?
Geothermal energy is the heat produced deep beneath Earth’s surface in the core. It’s created naturally through geological processes. This energy exists whether we use it or not, and even if we do, it renews as geological processes continue. The only challenge is accessing it. The most useful stash of energy exists between two and twelve miles under the surface, so special drilling technology is required to reach it.
Geothermal energy isn’t new, but it’s been increasing in popularity in recent years. This is especially true in Iceland, which transformed itself over the 20th century in large part by pioneering geothermal drilling. Now, 66% of the country’s primary energy use is derived from geothermal sources. Other countries are quickly catching up. As of 2021, it accounted for only .4% of energy in the USA, but that number is increasing quickly. Many see it as a method of the future.
How Does Geothermal Energy Work?
Geothermal well drilling varies in its methods. While some wells only need to be a few hundred feet deep, some reach depths spanning several miles. The most common method for extraction, often called conventional geothermal drilling, uses hot pressurized water near the surface to produce energy. Drillers pump the water up, extract its heat, then reinject the cooled water. Unfortunately, this method only works in areas with underground pools of hot, pressurized water, and these can be hard to find. Iceland’s success is largely due to an abundance of these pools
However, there is a newer, more practical extraction method called enhanced geothermal drilling. In this process, wells extract energy from non-porous rocks. Drillers inject water into a well, force it through fractures in hot rock, and pump it out of another well to extract the heat. There are still some engineering-related problems to overcome, but it’s widely considered to be the future of geothermal drilling.
What are the Benefits of Geothermal Energy?
- Environmentally sustainable – Unlike traditional fuel sources like fossil fuels, geothermal energy produces essentially no emissions. Nothing is burned, and there isn’t a finite amount of its source. Sure, there’s still a small amount of greenhouse gas production, but it pales in comparison to burning fossil fuels.
- Highly efficient – Geothermal pump systems use 25-50% less electricity than conventional HVAC systems when heating and cooling.
- Fully renewable and reliable – Geothermal energy is fully renewable thanks to naturally occurring geological processes, but it’s also exceptionally reliable. Unlike other renewable energy sources like biomass, solar, or wind, geothermal energy isn’t dependent on any external circumstances. It’s available at all times, during any sort of weather or any time of year.
- Maintenance-free (mostly) – Because there are so few movable parts in a geothermal system, they rarely malfunction or break. Pumps usually last for more than twenty years, and the pipes can last for more than fifty years.
The Future of Geothermal Drilling
Geothermal technology is getting cheaper as technology advances. In the last forty years, the cost of running a geothermal power plant has declined by nearly 50%. As of right now, only about 10% of the Earth’s surface is fit for power production, but as enhanced geothermal drilling becomes more widely available, this will continue to make geothermal energy more accessible and affordable.
The potential is incredible. The amount of heat that exists within 10,000 meters of Earth’s surface contains a mind-boggling 50,000 times more energy than all oil and natural gas resources in the world, combined. It’s waiting to be used. By investing in geothermal energy now, you can be a part of a cleaner, more affordable, more renewable, and more reliable energy source than traditional fossil fuels.
Is Geothermal Energy Right for Your Project?
Whether you’re an industrial driller looking to improve or replace your bits or a DIY enthusiast looking to create a geothermal well for your home, OK Bit has the drill bits you need. If you have questions about your specific project or about geothermal drilling as a whole, our experts will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to get started.