The Terra Praxis Co-founders have been at the forefront of the investigation of geothermal energy as a viable, scalable solution for heat, power, and fuels.
Superhot rock (SHR) has been called the “holy grail” of geothermal energy—because, in most of the world, SHR could provide competitive, zero-carbon, dispatchable power and support zero-carbon hydrogen fuel production. It is one of the very few high-energy-density, zero-carbon resources that could replace fossil energy around the globe.
An assessment by LucidCatalyst demonstrated that SHR energy has a combination of attractive characteristics that could enable it to play a meaningful role in accelerating and de-risking the clean energy transition:
• A broadly available resource which is many times the world’s energy consumption
• Could be deployed at the 100GW/year scale
• Avoids the land requirements of wind, solar or biofuels
• Has the potential to be the lowest cost source of power and heat. The combination of very low operating costs, no fuel costs, low capital costs, and high capacity factors, will deliver very competitive Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) in the range of $20-35/MWh.
In SHR systems, water is injected deep underground into a superhot heat reservoir and then is returned to the surface as superhot steam to power steam generators. Several R&D projects around the world have already drilled into superhot rock and have begun developing methods for operating in these extreme heat and pressure conditions. While superhot steam has yet to be harnessed for power production, its high energy potential is clear.
High-temperature geothermal is also an untapped resource to cost-competitively produce carbon neutral fuels for global markets. LucidCatalyst’s techno-economics analysis suggests that these production facilities can produce zero-carbon hydrogen and value-added, hydrogen-based commodities (ammonia, CO2-neutral synthetic fuels, etc.) cost-competitively and at a scale relevant to target markets.
This approach would use proven chemical production processes. Furthermore, the commodities being produced are ‘drop-in’ substitutes that do not require changes (or require relatively minor changes) to existing supply chain infrastructure or consumer behavior.
To realize the full potential of SHR, significant engineering innovations will be required like super-deep drilling, heat resistant well materials and deep heat reservoir development. Intensive drilling campaigns, incorporating innovations from unconventional oil and gas experience, could drive rapid learning and drive further cost reductions. Big tech could also speed SHR by supporting energy drilling ventures or by providing power purchase agreements for successful projects.
With significant private and public investment, along with enabling policies and continued technological innovation, SHR could plausibly be commercialized within 10 to 15 years.
Terra Praxis, through REPOWER, is designing back from the largest sources of carbon emissions to the new types of energy sources and supply chains that we will need to accelerate decarbonization beyond the current limited set of electrification options. By providing detailed maps of how transformative these technologies could be, we create a strong policy case for supporting their commercialization and help build the investment case for building new industries around the transformative capabilities they will deliver. If it can be developed into a ubiquitous energy source, SHR geothermal can play a key role in repurposing existing thermal power plant infrastructure and scaling up low-cost carbon neutral fuels and chemicals.