Geothermal energy, which uses the Earth’s underground heat to generate electricity, is being pioneered throughout the world as a renewable energy source. Companies like Chevron, AltaRock Energy, and Iceland’s Reykjavik have led the way in geothermal power generation, but none have yet addressed a common problem with many geothermal power plants: CO2 emissions. Now, Geothermal startup GreenFire Energy
has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy and AltaRock Energy to develop an innovation that eliminates geothermal CO2 emissions.
The geothermal process taps the heat under the Earth’s crust to release dry steam or heat water or other transfer fluids to run steam turbines for electricity generation. The problem, however, is that the process can release the CO2 (carbon dioxide) that has been sequestered beneath the surface of the Earth. Excess CO2 released into the atmosphere is the very problem that is leading to global climate change as it traps heat in the atmosphere. While geothermal is a renewable energy for the most part, few people realize that it contributes to the same type of CO2 emissions problems faced by coal, oil and fossil fuel power plants.
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GreenFire Energy, a Utah (USA) based geothermal start-up, is gaining the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy. GreenFire Energy’s innovation captures the CO2 released in the geothermal process and pressurizes it to a ‘supercritical’ state, transforming the CO2 into a liquid. GreenFire then uses this CO2 liquid as the heat transfer fluid to be cycled through in a binary cycle geothermal system
. The process elminates the release of CO2 emissions and actually utilizes the CO2 as a renewable heat transfer fluid, thus conserving the water or other chemical fluids traditionally used in the process.
GreenFire entered into an innovation sublicense agreement with established geothermal company AltaRock Energy in 2010 to develop the CO2-based geothermal energy. The companies are testing the CO2-based geothermal process at the St. John’s Dome geothermal location near Springville, Arizona (USA).