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Geothermal

Energy

rirM.WardumVIAUniversityHorsens

2010
Dissertation
7.Semester

rirM.WardumGeothermalEnergy

Preface
This dissertation is a part of my curriculum for the 7th semester B.sc in Architecture
Technology and construction management. To make this report I have read many
articles and books on this subject and I also visited a real geothermal energy power
plant and got a private tour in it.
The reason for my choosing this subject was that I am from Iceland and it has always
been around me, but I have never really put much thought in it until I moved to
Denmark. Thats when I really realised how lucky we are to have so much access to
geothermal energy. Its cost also intrigued me when I got my electricity and heat bill
when I was living in Denmark.
This dissertation is built up into 9 chapters to make it easier to read. I built up my report
basically from what areas you can find it and all the way to technical data about
harnessing it. In the conclusion I will clarify all my research questions which I asked
myself in the problem statement.

Abstract
My research focus in this report is geothermal energy, which such questions as What is
geothermal energy and where does it come from. I have used various research
methods, such as books, articles and study guides, to find the information I needed to
answer these questions, as well as the others I have asked myself in the problem
statement. My findings have shown that it comes from deep in the earth, and in specific
areas around the globe, where the conditions are right. In my conclusion I state that
geothermal energy is a very good contender for replacing coal and oil power plants, but
in order for this, it is necessary to reform the way governments handle energy supplies
by taxation and other methods.

rirM.WardumGeothermalEnergy

Table of Contents
Preface.........................................................................................................................................................2
Abstract........................................................................................................................................................2
Table of Figures..........................................................................................................................................5
Introduction..................................................................................................................................................5
1. Problem Formulation.............................................................................................................................6
2. Geothermal Energy what is it, and where does it come from?.....................................................7
2.1 Where do you find geothermal energy ................................................................................ 7
2.2 Tectonic plates .................................................................................................................... 8
2.3 Divergent boundaries .......................................................................................................... 8
2.4 Convergent boundaries ....................................................................................................... 8
2.4.1 Oceanic Continental Convergence........................................................................................9
2.4.2 Oceanic-Oceanic Convergence.............................................................................................9
2.4.3 Continental-Continental Convergence..................................................................................9
2.5 Transform Fault Boundaries ................................................................................................ 9
2.6 Countries using geothermal energy to produce electricity ................................................ 10
2.7 The depth of geothermal energy ....................................................................................... 11
2.8 The temperature of geothermal energy ............................................................................. 11
2.8.1 Low heat zones.......................................................................................................................11
2.8.2 High heat zones......................................................................................................................12
2.9 Harnessing geothermal energy ......................................................................................... 12
2.9.1 Dry Steam................................................................................................................................12
2.9.2 Flash steam.............................................................................................................................13
2.9.3 Binary steam...........................................................................................................................13
3. Research and exploration methods..................................................................................................14
3.1 Schlumberger method ....................................................................................................... 14

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3.2 TEM method ...................................................................................................................... 15


3.3 MT-measurement .............................................................................................................. 16
3.4 Ground vibration measurements ....................................................................................... 16
3.5 A reflectivity measurement ................................................................................................ 17
3.6 Wave breaking measurements .......................................................................................... 17
4. Drilling for geothermal energy............................................................................................................18
5. Geothermal powerplants.....................................................................................................................20
5.1 Reykjanesvirkjun ............................................................................................................... 20
5.2 Svartsengi ......................................................................................................................... 22
5.2.1 Power plant 1..........................................................................................................................22
5.2.2 Power plant 2..........................................................................................................................23
5.2.3 Power Plant 3..........................................................................................................................23
5.2.4 Power plant 4..........................................................................................................................23
5.2.5 Power plant 5..........................................................................................................................23
5.2.6 Power plant 6..........................................................................................................................24
5.3 The Geysers ...................................................................................................................... 24
6. Advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy..................................................................26
6.1 The advantages ................................................................................................................. 26
6.2 The disadvantages ............................................................................................................ 26
7. Future of geothermal energy..............................................................................................................27
8. Conclusion............................................................................................................................................29
9.Literature list..........................................................................................................................................31

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Table of Figures
Figure1:Theearthlayers.............................................................................................................................7
Figure2.Theplateboundariesintheworld................................................................................................8
Figure3.MidAtlanticridgedivergent.........................................................................................................8
Figure4.Temperaturesatdepthof6kmintheUSA.................................................................................11
Figure5.HeatzonesinIceland...................................................................................................................12
Figure6:DrySteamplant...........................................................................................................................12
Figure7:Flashsteamplant.........................................................................................................................13
Figure8:Binarycycleplant.........................................................................................................................13
Figure9:Schlumbergermethod................................................................................................................14
Figure10:A2DdatareceivedfromSchlumbergermeasuring..................................................................15
Figure11:TEMMethod.............................................................................................................................15
Figure12:A3DdatareceivedfromTEMmeasuring..................................................................................16
Figure13:Themostcommondrillhead.....................................................................................................18

Introduction
In this report I wanted to investigate what geothermal energy is, and where it comes
from. The report is divided up into eight separate chapters, excluding the literature list,
which enables me to start from the basics of what geothermal energy is, to where you
can find it, and at what depth. The following chapters after that are about the more
technical aspects of geothermal energy, followed by information about some of the
largest geothermal power plants in Iceland.
What I hope to achieve in writing a report about this subject, is a broader knowledge in
this field, which I possibly could use after I am finished with the 7th semester. I have
developed a strong interest into the techniques and developments of this field, and am
avidly following the progress of the local power stations. At the moment in Iceland,
these geothermal power plants are under a lot of media coverage because the
government in power have halted much of the progress going on, by the wishes of the
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environmental party. This is something a significant amount of the population is


displeased with, as their ground for doing so doesnt hold much ground.
This is one of my main reasons for writing this report, as I will fully understand the
important information about geothermal energy, and be able to make up my own mind
whether or not I believe their claims about it being destructive to the surrounding
environment to be true.

1. Problem Formulation
What is geothermal energy?
Research questions:
1. Where do you find geothermal energy?
2. How deep do you need to drill for it?
3. How hot is the water or the steam?
4. How do you harness it?
5. Can you use it to make electricity?
6. What are the advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy?
7. What is the future of geothermal energy?

rirM.WardumGeothermalEnergy

2. Geothermal Energy what is it, and where does it come from?


Geothermal means earth heat. The geothermal
energy comes from under the ground and has
its source all the way from the earths core, as
you go deeper into the earths ground the
hotter it is1. The earth has 5 layers, inner core,
outer core, mantle, upper mantle and the
crust2. The earths core is about 6000
Celsius, and if you start from the earths
surface and go down, the temperature rises
about 17 to 30 Celsius per every kilometre3.

Figure1: Theearthlayers

Geothermal energy comes from two things,


primordial and radioactive decay. Primordial heat comes from when the earth was
formed 4.5 billion years ago, from the energy created when masses from colliding
cosmic matter happened. Radioactive decay is from materials that were radioactive
when the earth was formed and it still today produces heat underground additionally
with the earths core. When the earths atmosphere cooled down and also cooled the
ground it works as an insulator for the massive heat in the ground4.
2.1 Where do you find geothermal energy
The geothermal energy escapes to the surface through cracks in the earths layers. The
cracks are where the tectonic plates meet; its also often called the ring of fire. Tectonic
plates are floating on top of one of the earths layers called the mantle. The earth has
many tectonic plates around the world. And where the plates meet there can be
volcanoes and earthquakes also5.

http://www.cangea.ca/whatisgeothermal/
http://www.myclimatechange.net/default.aspx?cat=3&sub=&SubjectId=41&Rate=5
3
http://www.myclimatechange.net/default.aspx?cat=3&sub=&SubjectId=41&Rate=5
4
http://www.cangea.ca/whatisgeothermal/
5
http://www.universetoday.com/31139/ringoffirevolcanoes/
Figure1:http://www.myclimatechange.net/default.aspx?cat=3&sub=&SubjectId=41&Rate=5
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2.2 Tectonic plates


There are many tectonic plates and they
are always moving and they are all
connected in a chain, no plate moves
without affecting another plate. And thats
what creates the geothermal areas as well
as earthquakes and volcanoes on the
boundaries of these plates6.

Figure2: Theplateboundariesintheworld

There are 3 main types of plate


boundaries7:

2.3 Divergent boundaries


Divergent boundaries exist when two plates
are pulling away from each other. When that
happens under the sea it just creates more
ocean but when it happens on land which is
actually happening in my homeland it will make
a rift or a small canyon (but very slowly) until it
will eventually tear Iceland apart as you can
see in this picture I took at Reykjanesskagi in
Iceland.

Figure3: MidAtlanticridgedivergent

2.4 Convergent boundaries


A convergent boundary exists when two plates collide with one another and one of them
gives in and slides under the other plate. You will find mountains and volcano areas
where the plates converge8.

http://www.platetectonics.com/book/page_5.asp
Figure2:http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/heidtken.html
7
http://www.platetectonics.com/book/page_5.asp
Figure3:Personalphoto

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There are three kinds of convergence boundaries9:


2.4.1 Oceanic Continental Convergence
Oceanic continental convergence is when an oceanic plate meets a continental plate
and pushes under. The continental plate pushes up and creates mountains. But as the
oceanic plates get pushed down it breaks into small pieces and creates earthquakes
and volcanoes.
2.4.2 Oceanic-Oceanic Convergence
Oceanic-oceanic convergence is when two oceanic plates meet under the sea and one
of them pushes under it, creating a crack. Often they create volcanoes and islands like
in Vestmannaeyjar, the volcano in Iceland. It created an island called Surtsey today10.
2.4.3 Continental-Continental Convergence
Continental-continental convergence is when two plates hit each other head on but
dont really push one of them down but breaks them up and pushes them up and
sideways, creating mountains. For example; the Himalayas were formed that way
millions of years ago.
2.5 Transform Fault Boundaries
Transform fault boundaries11 are boundaries were two plates are running and hitting
each other horizontally with one another and it can create large earthquakes. Almost all
of the fault boundaries are down in the ocean floor. There are very few places on the
planet where this happens on land, but one of the few places it occurs is California in
USA.

http://www.platetectonics.com/book/page_5.asp
http://www.platetectonics.com/book/page_5.asp
10
http://www.ust.is/surtsey/fridlandid/
11
http://www.platetectonics.com/book/page_5.asp
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You can also find geothermal areas in rifts on the plates and the most famous one is the
Rio Grande rift that made the national Yellowstone park in Colorado. It goes all the way
from Colorado (USA) down to Mexico12.
2.6 Countries using geothermal energy to produce electricity
From a report from the International Geothermal Association done in 2007 it says that
24 countries are using geothermal energy for direct electricity production but 72
countries use it for both district heating and electricity13.

List of top 10 countries that use geothermal energy for producing electricity14:
1. USA - 2248 MW
2. Philippines 1909 MW
3. Mexico 953 MW
4. Italy 791 MW
5. Indonesia 589.5 MW
6. Iceland - 575 MW15
7. Japan 534.3 MW
8. New Zealand 437 MW
9. El Salvador 161 MW
10. Costa Rica 142.5 MW

12

http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/sheehan/projects/riogrande/faq/
http://www.geoenergy.org/currentUse.aspx
14
http://www.http://balisos.com/Energy/ReFocusReportGeoThermalEnergyIndonesia.html
15
http://os.is/jardhiti/jardvarmanotkun/raforkunotkun/
13

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2.7 The depth of geothermal energy


The depth is different from where you
are in the world and the heat zones are
characterized into two, high and low
heat zones. Most holes in Iceland are
from 50m up to 4000m, all depends if
you are drilling for low heat or high
heat16. But Iceland is a special case

Figure4: Temperaturesatdepthof6kmintheUSA

when it comes to this. Most holes are


from 1000m to 4000m for example the largest geothermal plant in the world, The
Geysers in San Francisco California there the holes are up 3000m17.

2.8 The temperature of geothermal energy


The temperature is different from where you are in the world and the heat zones are
characterized into two, high and low heat zones. The high heat zones are measured as
over 200 in above 1000m depth and low heat areas are measured as lower than 150
in 1000m depth18. Anything lower than 180 is not usable for making electricity thats
why it is characterized into two, low and high zones19.

2.8.1 Low heat zones


Low heat zones is when the heat is lower than 150 in 1000m depth but it can be found
just 50m to 200m down in Iceland. 87% of all homes in Iceland are heated directly from

16

http://www.jardboranir.is/?PageID=688
http://www.geysers.com/geothermal.htm
Figure4:http://personaldividends.com/lifestyle/briskycapital/cangeothermalbeamajorpartofourenergyplan
18
http://www.fsu.is/~ornosk/liffraedi/erlend/joha/jarisl.htm
19
http://www.myclimatechange.net/default.aspx?cat=3&sub=&SubjectId=41&Rate=5
17

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the hot water and also the tap water is


fresh hot water. According to studies there
are about 250 low heat areas in Iceland20.

2.8.2 High heat zones


High heat zones is when the heat is higher
than 200 in 1000m depthand they are not
as common as the low heat areas as you
can see in the picture about the heat zones

Figure5: HeatzonesinIceland

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in Iceland .

2.9 Harnessing geothermal energy


Today there are 3 types of geothermal power plants22:

2.9.1 Dry Steam


Dry steam power plant is where you use direct steam
from the ground and it generates the turbines or the
generators just with the steam itself. The steam
temperature is usually above 235. This is the oldest
method of using geothermal energy and the cheapest
way also.
Figure6: DrySteamplant

20

http://os.is/jardhiti/jardhitasvaediaislandi/laghitasvaedi/
http://visindavefur.hi.is/svar.php?id=2687
Figure5:http://os.is/jardhiti/jardhitasvaediaislandi/hahitasvaedi/
22
http://www.myclimatechange.net/default.aspx?cat=3&sub=&SubjectId=41&Rate=5
Figure6:http://www.agreenamerica.org/geothermal.htm
Figure7:http://www.agreenamerica.org/geothermal.htm
Figure8:http://www.agreenamerica.org/geothermal.htm
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2.9.2 Flash steam


Flash steam power plants tap into holes where there is
water around 180C and up, they pump it up and the
water pressure decreases and the water condemns
into steam and powers the turbines. The water that
doesnt turn into steam is pumped back down to the
well for reuse. This is the most common way of power
plants to do it.
Figure7: Flashsteamplant

2.9.3 Binary steam


Binary cycle is a method when the water is not hot as
the other methods. So they use the hot water to heat
up liquids that have a lower boiling point. These
liquids are heated up by the hot water and the liquids
turn into steam and power the generators or the
turbines and make electricity. Then the hot water is
pumped back down to be heated up again for reuse.
This method of using geothermal energy is going to
be the most common way in the future because you

Figure8:Binarycycleplant

dont need as hot water to power the generators.

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3. Research and exploration methods


Almost every one of geothermal areas that are being used today are close to hot
springs and steam coming up through the earths surface. After they have found areas
like that they take samples and temperature writings and research the data. If the areas
have high enough temperatures research it further and are even used for harnessing
geothermal energy. But there are geothermal areas that have been harnessed and used
even if there were no signs of hot springs or steam23.
When the research starts in the area for geothermal energy the first thing you need to
do is conduct a very detailed land and geologically land survey. The main focus is on
cracks and ground materials that indicate a water vein and if it looks good you start
measuring it. Even though a lot of information can be made by measuring and taking
ground samples you cannot be sure until you make shallow drilling holes for research.24
Measurements and research methods25:

3.1 Schlumberger method


Schlumberger method uses two transmitter
electrodes (A and B) that you stick into the
ground up to 2-4 Km and then two receiver
electrodes (M and N) and connected between
them is an electric transmitter. They are all set
up in a direct line and in the middle there is an

Figure9:Schlumbergermethod

electric or a voltage meter that receives the


data that bounces back after you have shot electricity into the ground and thereby
mapping the ground layers beneath you.

23

GeothermalEnergySystems,ErnstHuenges,page37
Jarhitabk,GumundurPlsson,page107108
25
Jarhitabk,GumundurPlsson,page111122
Figure9:http://www.arcticgeophysics.com/methods_resistivity_1D.html
24

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The longer the distance the deeper


the measurements are. For example
when the distance between A and B
is about 2km, you can measure
down to 500-1000m down. These
measurement expeditions are usually

Figure10:A 2DdatareceivedfromSchlumbergermeasuring

made by a group of 4 people and are


often hard because of tough terrain and remote areas, also so they can maybe just take
one or two measurements a day. This measurement method cannot be made in snow
or on frozen ground.
3.2 TEM method
TEM method gives similar readings as the
Schlumberger method. The main difference is that it
gives you a 3D reading. It is way simpler and it costs a
lot less then the Schlumberger method. It uses the laws
of electromagnetism about the connection between
electricity and magnetic field. You start with laying an
electric cable in a loop covering about 300m in
diameter, which then you shoot electricity into, then you
switch off the electricity thats going through the loop.
After it is switched off electricity suddenly shoots up
from the ground and a measurement device which is

Figure11:TEMMethod

placed in the middle reads and measures the electricity coming up and changes it into
data26.

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Jarhitabk,GumundurPlsson,page113114
Figure10:http://water.usgs.gov/ogw/bgas/publications/wri994211/wri994211.html
Figure11:http://www.enex.is/?PageID=201
Figure12:http://www.isgs.illinois.edu/aboutisgs/monthlyrepts/apr2009/actsall.shtml

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The TEM method started to be used in the


1980s and is in many ways much better then
Schlumberger method. You dont have to stick
electrodes into the ground and thereby
allowing you to take measurements on remote
places, and also on frozen ground too. It can
also be made by only two men instead of 4,
like with the Schlumberger way, and the cost
is much lower also. But there are some
disadvantages with it; it is very sensitive for
outer interruption like electric lines for example

Figure12:A3DdatareceivedfromTEMmeasuring

close to cities or towns were electric line goes


into. But the advantages are more than the disadvantages and it has almost replaced
the Schlumberger method completely.

3.3 MT-measurement
MT-measurement (Magnetotellurics) is a technique based on using natural fluctuations
in the earths magnetic field. By measuring these magnetic fluctuations you can make
pretty thorough readings of the layout of the underground layers, up to even 30km
down. It has mainly been used to measure the earths crust or to survey a very large
area.

3.4 Ground vibration measurements


Ground vibration measurements are a combination of two ways of measuring ground
vibration. The vibrations are measured on a seismograph on different location from the
spot you are measuring. Toughs two types are called reflection measurements and
refraction measurements.

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3.5 A reflectivity measurement


A Reflectivity measurement is a measurement tool which receives data from waves
which bounce back from earths layers and records them. The way they use this method
is they lay down a cable, often over 2400m with wave sensors about 25m apart from
one another. The first readings from the hit are useless but with extensive work and
time consuming computer work you will get very accurate readings of the ground layers.
This measurement method is very effective in areas where the ground layers are in
sediment and thats why this is the most common way to look for oil. This method is
very expensive and oil is worth more than geothermal, thats the reason why this is not
a common way of measuring for geothermal. Geothermal energy is usually found in
crystalline bedrock.

3.6 Wave breaking measurements


Wave breaking measurements works by comparing the travelling time between when
you shoot the wave down until it bounces back from the ground to the receiver. The
distance between where you shoot down the wave and the receiver is much more than
a reflectivity measuring for example. To measure depths down to 5km you need the
distance to be 10-15km between the start of the wave and the receiver.

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4. Drilling for geothermal energy


When all necessary measurements and research have been done and all official
approval has been given you can start drilling. But there are many factors to think about
also. You need roads and facilities in the area to do this and most important thing is that
you need access to water to cool the drill down. So there are many things to consider
before you ever start drilling the hole.
Even though geothermal energy has been used for centuries in bathhouses and to
launder clothes it wasnt really used until they started drilling holes in geothermal areas
in modern times. By drilling down for it you could multiply the running water and harness
a lot hot water then it was in pools and geysers on the surface. The first drills were hand
powered or powered by farm animals, and there are tales of these kinds of drills all the
back to the year 1200 in China. In the beginning of the 19 century in Toscana Italy they
started to drill (hand powered) down for the purpose of using it to make electricity27.
The drill is drilled circularly into the ground and if it drills down on water vain in the
earths crust, and if there is enough pressure or water in the hole the drilling is stopped
and considered a successful hole. If the hole is to be used permanently you will have to
make very good finishing work on the hole like sealing the walls in the hole to prevent
rocks falling down or even collapsing especially in high heat zones. To seal and secure
the hole, a steel pipe is hammered down the hole to protect it from collapsing, or letting
other exterior things getting into the hole like cold water from the bedrock or the crust.
All geothermal drilling technology basically came
from oil drilling but there has been a lot of advances
in drilling technology in the past decades. The most
common way of drilling uses the same method as
an oil drill. You screw the drill head on the first steel
bar which are about 10m long, and then you mount
the drill motor on the bar and start drilling down.
Figure13: Themostcommondrillhead

27

Jarhitabk,GumundurPlsson,page122

Figure13:http://www.ecplaza.net/tradeleads/seller/3402014/steel_tooth_tricone_bit.html

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When the 10m bar has been drilled down you detach the drill motor and screw a new
10m steel bar on it and drill it down again. You repeat this process and you put on as
many steel bars as you need to reach down to the depth you need. The drill head has
three drill heads on it, and it turns as soon as the steel bars start turning, turning around
60-90 times a minute, which breaks and crushes the earths rock into as fine sand as
found on a beach. But how many times you must replace the drill head depends on how
hard the ground layers are, and that takes a long time depending on how deep you are
down. You need to unscrew all steel bars off until you reach the drill head and then redo
everything again until you reach the bottom of the hole and continue drilling28.
The deepest drill hole in the world is in Kola, Russia. It started in 1970 and it was being
drilled on an off till it stopped in 1994. It was part of a program to drill many holes
reaching 10-15km depth during the time of the Soviet Union to research the earths
crust, pressure and research the techniques and technology for deep drilling for oil and
gas at the depth of up to 15km.29 They reached a temperature of 180C in the bottom of
the hole and this was not a geothermal area so the possibilities are every were if there
is a will to reach heat from the ground.

28
29

Jarhitabk,GumundurPlsson,page124126
http://www.episodes.org/backissues/54/ARTICLES9.pdf

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5. Geothermal power plants


In this chapter I investigated and researched three power plants and I visited one of
them to get a better understanding of the variety of power plants. Each of them has their
own qualities and environment to produce electricity and hot domestic water.

5.1 Reykjanesvirkjun
Reykjanesvirkjun is a geothermal power plant in Iceland and is owned by HS Orka hf.
And the plant is located in an area called Reykjanes in Iceland. They also have other
geothermal power plants in another area called Svartsengi.
I visited and got a private tour around the power plant. Reykjanesvirkjun produces 100
MW of electricity (only electricity) and its a very unique geothermal power plant and
actually only one of its kinds in the world. This is due to the hot water it uses is almost
pure sea water. It also uses sea water to cool down the steam and water after it has
gone through the generators. It is located on the coast so it has easy access to cold sea
water, which is one of the main problems with establishing a geothermal power plant
around the world, as not all cities are located in coastal areas.
It gets water and steam from 16 drill holes reaching depths of 2-3 km deep, and in the
total of 35km deep. Most the holes reach heat from 290-310C but there is one that
reaches 316C. The pressures in the holes are from 25-50 bars.
The water goes from the holes to a separation station through pipelines and there it is
separated and changed into steam. Each separation tank can take water from 6 holes
and after that process the pressure goes down to 18 bars. Then it goes through 1220m
of pipelines to a moisture separation tank. There always slips some water through the
separation station and in such long pipe lines, moisture is just unavoidable. Thats why it
goes into a moisture separation tank and there all moisture is filtered out and the steam
is dried. It is very important to dry the steam before it goes into the turbine generators.
From the moisture tanks it goes into the generators (turbines) and it is let into the
generator on each side to balance the steam or energy coming in. The turbine is the
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machine that generates electricity, the steam comes into the generators and goes
through the turbines making them turn as the steam goes through them and that
generates electricity, and in Reykjanesvirkjun there are two generators. The turbine
rotates 3000 rpm as the steam goes through them so you can see why it is important to
dry the steam so the moisture or water doesnt go through. But there is always some
moisture and thats why Reykjanesvirkjun has double flow generators to minimize
erosion and damage. The wind flow in the generators is 1000 kph so you can imagine
the stress and pressure the generators are put through, and there is about 17% of
moisture in the steam when it enters the generators. That means there is about 14kg
per sec. In 1000 keep going through the generators and thats why they use double flow
generators to ease the immense pressure on the generators. There are two generators
in Reykjanesvirkjun and each produces 50 MW, a total of 100 MW, which goes to a high
voltage station next to the plant, and then to its destination.
After the steam has produced electricity in the generators it goes into a condenser to
cool it down. From there the steam is cooled down into water inside a big tank. It works
like a double radiator that runs together side by side until it cools down from the cold
sea water, not unlike a closed radiator system in a house where you heat up the hot
water again in a circular closed heating system. The seawater is pumped up from
twelve 60m deep drill holes 200m at a rate of 4000 l per sec. from the coastline, to avoid
getting sea life and seaweed into the condenser. The earth layer is so open under all
that area and the seawater just runs through the ground. So after the steam has been
cooled down it is 45C and it is pumped back into the ocean. It has to be cooled down to
45C to not affect the sea life in the area.
Thats what makes Reykjanesvirkjun so unique compared to others, because its the
only one in the world that uses seawater to cool down the steam. But the sad part about
the steam that comes out of the generators is that it is still usable and would produce
50MW extra, but the tour guide from HS Orka told me that they are not allowed to use it

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because of some rules and legislation around the geothermal energy and they even
have the third generator just lying on the floor unused30.

5.2 Svartsengi
Svartsengi is HS Orkass second area of geothermal power plants and also where they
started out producing electricity and also hot and cold water for homes and business in
the area.
The first hole to be drilled in the area by HS Orka was in 1971 and it was 262m deep
but it turned out to be useless. The second one was drilled the year after and it was
239m deep but it turned out to be useless too. But later that year they drilled the third
one and which was 402m deep and it was a success, and they used it until 1981. There
have been drilled 22 holes total in the area. This power plant very unique also, mainly
because it delivers preheated cold water to the hot water supply to homes and it was
one of the first ones in the world to pump the water back down into the ground, and
actually 60% of the water that is pumped up is pumped back down. The landscape is
also very open with centuries of old hardened lava rocks and that lets the rain water
easily pass down to the ground layers. So while it rains and they pump the water back
down, there is an endless supply of geothermal energy.

In Svartsengi there are 6 power plants all in all:


5.2.1 Power plant 1
Power plant 1 was the first of its kind in the world. It was the first to produce both
electricity and hot water for domestic use. In it was for heat exchange channels which
produced 50 MW of thermal power capacity (domestic hot water) and two generators
which made 2 MW of electricity. This power plant was designed and engineered entirely
by Icelanders.

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BrochurefromHSOrkahf.

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5.2.2 Power plant 2


Power plant 2 produced only hot water for domestic use in three heat exchange
channels which produced 75 MW of thermal input. The engineers came up with two
things to make it different than in its predecessor. They used plate heat exchangers and
three air vent columns to make it more efficient and this was another thing they
developed after a lot of research and work.
5.2.3 Power Plant 3
Power plant 3 is entirely electricity plant and it produces 6 MW of electricity. The
generator is made by Fuji Electric. Fuji came in after a poor performance of the
generator in power plant 1, since it was never produced specially for the harsh steam
and heat from the ground. After the first power plant it was clear that it had to be made
especially for this use and special demands were made of materials to be used inside of
the generators. It was a complete success both for HS Orku and Fuji Electric and they
are still working together today, and the generator has been in use ever since 1980.
5.2.4 Power plant 4
Power plant 4 was done in collaboration with Ormat in Israel and its for generating
electricity. In 1987 it started with three turbines but in 1991 four more turbines were
added totaling in on seven, and they produce 8.4 MW. Plant no. 4 was also the first of
its kind in the world because it uses the processed steam from plant no 3. This is the
binary method; the binary cycle is a method when the water or steam is not as hot as
the other methods. So they use the less hot water or steam to heat up liquids that have
a lower boiling point. These liquids are heated up by the hot water or steam and the
liquids turn into steam and power the turbines31
5.2.5 Power plant 5
Power plant 5 produces both electricity and domestic heat water. It generates 30 MW of
electricity and 75 MW of thermal input or hot water and it was started up in 1999. It is a
combined technology from the other power plants but of course up to date with the
technology of the generators at that time.

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http://www.myclimatechange.net/default.aspx?cat=3&sub=&SubjectId=41&Rate=5

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5.2.6 Power plant 6


Power plant 6 is also the first of its kind. It generates 30 MW of electricity in a single
generator with three steam intakes and each has a different pressure intake, thats what
makes it so unique. HS Orka wanted to come up with a way to use steam direct from
under the ground, steam from the other power plants and also hot water. That created a
lot of problems because the steam had a pressure of about 20 bars and it needed to be
lowered down to 5.5 bars, and the older plants were just throwing out steam to get it
down to 5.5 bars. So they developed a top pressure valve to lower the pressure without
wasting any energy but still reuse the steam from the other plants, and also hot water.
And it also updated the older ones with this technology. Power plant 6 is the ultimate
power plant in reusable energy and new. At first Fuji did not like this idea at all and
thought it was impossible to make these kinds of generators, but after a year of
discussions and work they turned and changed their minds, and actually saw that a
multi pressure generator is often a very useful solution in other countries where the heat
is not as high. Together HS Orka and Fuji Electric developed and designed the
generator for the plant and it was a complete success32.

5.3 The Geysers


Geysers geothermal power plant is in California just outside San Francisco and it is the
largest geothermal power plant in the world producing 2043 MW from 23 sites.
In 1921 the first geothermal power plant was put in use powering only 250 kilowatt. It
only powered a resort that was there and some street lights but it could not compete
with other power resources at that time and was soon shut down. In 1950 experiments
and research began on the area for a potential power plant. And in 1955 they
successfully drilled a well that was used to produce electricity and 5 years later they
built the first geothermal power plant for commercial use; it produced 11 MW of
electricity. In 1967 an oil company came into the project bringing in valuable technology
and financial capability to research the area better and to drill for more wells33. The

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http://www.hsorka.is/kynningarefni/KynningvigslaOV6.pdf
http://www.geysers.com/history.htm

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power plant has only grown since, and it is the worlds biggest geothermal power plant.
It supplies the state of California with 25% of all renewable energy and it produces 40%
of all electricity made with geothermal energy in the US. The Geysers power plant
consists of 23 power plants, 350 steam wells and 58 injection wells producing over 2000
MW of electricity. Its a dry steam power plant and it pumps down water through the
injection wells to produce steam to power the turbines to make electricity. They get their
water from recycled wastewater from the state of California through some of the 80
miles of pipelines going in and out of the power plant34.

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6. Advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy

6.1 The advantages


The advantages of a geothermal energy are many but the biggest ones are, you do not
need a big space for the power plant compared to others like oil, nuclear, gas or coal
power plants. So the cost of buying land for building a power plant is reduced right
there. It powers itself completely from its own electricity production which is completely
free. The resource is completely free; its just using the steam or the hot water from
underground, it does not need coal or gas from another place to run its generators. And
most importantly it does not pollute at all, there is no pollution from geothermal energy
power plants. It does not release any greenhouse gases either. And in some countries
you will get tax discounts because of your plant is not releasing any pollution into the
air35.
6.2 The disadvantages
The disadvantages of a geothermal energy are not that many but there is one that is
big. First it takes often many years of surveying and researching the area and then
starts the drilling process which can also take some time and there is no guarantee that
you will find big enough well to process steam, but that is becoming less of a problem
due to todays technology in ground surveying, but it can take even up to 10 years from
surveying to actually producing electricity in a power plant. The wells can also dry out
for even 10 years and the ground is a factor too, the bedrock can be so hard that it is
almost impossible to drill down or too expensive. But the main disadvantages are its
location, these places where there is geothermal energy is often in remote places and
miles from any civilization or any structure at all. And many geothermal power plants
also need cold water to cool down the steam before pumping it back down36.

35
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http://www.cleanenergyideas.com/articles/disadvantages_of_geothermal_energy.html

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7. Future of geothermal energy


Now at the turn of the century the Earth's population is about six billion. Of which two
billion do not have access to energy sources other than firewood or similar heating and
living. It is important to give the poorest nations the opportunity to increase prosperity by
taking the machines and technology in their service. It is expected that mankind will
double in numbers in the 21 century, and the energy consumption is also expected to
double in the 21 century.

It is a huge task to provide 12 billion people enough energy and even more to provide
them with clean energy. It is hoped that energy consumption will improve in this century
like in the last years there has been made drastic changes for the good in air pollution
from some energy resources like coal or oil. But it is still clear that it will be hard to
reduce the pollution or even reducing that kind of energy production.

Greenhouse gases and air pollution is substantially less with using renewable energy
resources than using oil or gas. Thats why it is becoming the main focus in most
countries around the world today to use renewable energy. It is still going at turtle pace,
and it will probably continue to do so in the next two decades or so. The renewable
energy resources are much bigger than even todays energy consumption is in the
world, but it is met with a lot of resentment from todays leading energy companies,
mainly because of financial factors. They dont really want to stop selling oil and gas,
there is just too much at stake for them and that is the main reason. They control the
energy market. But to increase interest in renewable energy there has to be some
technological advancement in renewable energy production and mainly in cost. Or put
more taxes on fossil fuels to make renewable energy a better investment.

Water power and geothermal energy are competitive with fossil fuel regarding to cost,
biomass and wind power are not that far from it neither, but solar power has a long way
to go. International energy predictions assume that renewable energy will be 20-50% of
all energy consumption in the world in the latter part of the decade. And it is predicted
that sun power will be the far biggest renewable energy source and then biomass.
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It is clear that not any other energy resource will replace fossil fuel as the world biggest
energy provider unless there are some changes made in the governing of energy in the
world. In the end you will need to use that energy resource that pollutes the least which
is available in your area or country37.

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8. Conclusion
In this report I asked myself various question and the first of them was, what is
geothermal energy? Geo means earth and thermal means heat so thats were the word
geothermal comes from and geothermal energy comes from under the ground. It can be
in different depths depending on where you are in the world, or geothermal areas and
its energy or source goes as deep as the earths core which is 6000 Celsius. The
locations of most geothermal areas are where the Tectonic plates meet, thats also were
a lot volcanoes and earthquakes occur. The Tectonic plates are floating on one of the
earths layers called the mantle and they are constantly moving and are all in a chain of
action. No plate moves without another moving but when they collide there is a massive
release of energy like volcanoes and earthquakes. Toughs places are the most
common area where geothermal energy is. The depth of geothermal energy various
from where you are in the world for example in Iceland its from 50m to 4000m but in
Geyser California most of the holes are around 3000m. It can go as far as 10.000m but
you really just need to reach 180-190 steam to produce electricity. But before you can
drill anything there is a long time that goes into research and ground measuring before
you start drilling and there a many ways of measuring it, but the most common one is
the Schlumberger method, but with todays technological advantages its only going to
get better. The heat of the steam can go as low as 150 or even less, to over 300 and
is some cases you need to cool down the steam before letting it go through the
generators. To harness this energy and produce electricity there are mostly three kinds
of power plants in the world. The first one is a dry steam power plant and that one uses
the steam directly from under the ground with a temperature around 235. The second
one is called flash steam power plant and it pumps up water around 180 and when the
water condenses it uses the steam to power its generators. The water that is still left is
then pumped back down into the same well and is reused and this is the most common
geothermal power plant. The third one is called binary steam plant and it pumps up hot
water that is still not hot enough to condemns, but it is used to heat up other liquids
materials that have a much lower boiling point than ever water and when that liquid has
condemns it uses that steam to power the generators. The hot water is then pumped
back down like the flash one. This method is most likely to be the most common one
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because it does not need as hot water to power the turbines. I also asked myself what
are the advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy? The advantages are far
better than the disadvantages, mainly because it does not pollute the air at all or release
any greenhouse gases either. The space it needs is also significantly less than other
power plants, like oil or coal and it as also renewable energy unlike fossil fuel. The
disadvantages are not many but mostly it is location. It can be hard to build power
plants where these geothermal areas are, and to cool them down. Many geothermal
power plants need cold water to cool down the steam and that can be difficult to provide
because many geothermal areas are in remote places. Its other disadvantages is that it
can take a long time before ever drilling down, due to research work and it can take up
to 10 years from researching the area to producing electricity in a power plant. In the
end I asked myself what is the future of geothermal energy? It is clear that geothermal
energy will never be the only energy provider in the future but it will play a big role in it.
Fossil fuel will always be used until it is cheaper to use other energy resources like
geothermal energy. There are many things that need to changes in the worlds
governing like taxing fossil fuel to force cleaner and renewable energy resources. It is
predicted that geothermal energy will be around 3-4th biggest energy provider after solar
biomass and wind.

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9.Literature list
Books:
Geothermal Energy Systems, Ernst Huenges, 2010
Jarhitabk. Eli og nnig jarhita, Gumundur Plsson, 2005

Articles and Reports:


The ring of fire: the use of geothermal energy in Indonesia
http://www. http://balisos.com/Energy/ReFocus-Report-GeoThermal-Energy-Indonesia.html

Kola super deep drilling project


http://www.episodes.org/backissues/54/ARTICLES--9.pdf

Brochure from HS Orka hf about Reykjanesvirkjun.


Brochure from HS Orka hf about Svartsengi power plant
http://www.hsorka.is/kynningarefni/KynningvigslaOV6.pdf

Article about Geysers power plant


http://www.geysers.com/docs/Repowering_The_Geysers_May_2007.pdf

Report about the future of geothermal energy


http://www.samorka.is/doc/1065

Web Pages:
Canadian Geothermal Energy Association
http://www.cangea.ca/what-is-geothermal/

Info about climate change and geothermal energy


http://www.myclimatechange.net/default.aspx?cat=3&sub=&SubjectId=41&Rate=5

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Articles and info about the ring of fire and volcanoes


http://www.universetoday.com/31139/ring-of-fire-volcanoes/

Plate Tectonic. A web book about the tectonic plates


http://www.platetectonics.com/book/page_5.asp

The Environmental Institution in Iceland


http://www.ust.is/surtsey/fridlandid/

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science


http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/sheehan/projects/riogrande/faq/

Geothermal Energy Association


http://www.geo-energy.org/currentUse.aspx

The Energy Institution in Iceland


http://os.is/jardhiti/jardvarmanotkun/raforkunotkun/

Jarboranir is a ground drilling company in Iceland


http://www.jardboranir.is/?PageID=688

Geysers is a power plant in California


http://www.geysers.com/geothermal.htm

A high school project from Fjlbrautarskla Suurlands in Iceland


http://www.fsu.is/~ornosk/liffraedi/erlend/joha/jarisl.htm

The Energy Institution in Iceland


http://os.is/jardhiti/jardhitasvaedi-a-islandi/hahitasvaedi/

The Energy Institution in Iceland


http://os.is/jardhiti/jardhitasvaedi-a-islandi/laghitasvaedi/
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The Science web in Iceland


http://visindavefur.hi.is/svar.php?id=2687

Info about geothermal energy


http://www.agreenamerica.org/geothermal.htm

Geysers is a power plant in California


http://www.geysers.com/history.htm

Clean Energy Ideas: web page with info and articles about renewable energy
http://www.clean-energy-ideas.com/articles/advantages_of_geothermal_energy.html

Clean Energy Ideas: web page with info and articles about renewable energy
http://www.clean-energy-ideas.com/articles/disadvantages_of_geothermal_energy.html

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