Tectonic plates beneath seas are clean energy jackpots, finds French firm

Not just wind farms but even moving geothermal energy generation facilities offshore could help us power the world with clean energy, as per a whitepaper released recently by Paris-based technology company CGG. The company is looking to patent the technology to deploy it rapidly in various parts of the globe.

With countries looking to move away from fossil fuels, wind and solar energy farms are being built at a rapid pace. Since both technologies have limited sustained energy production, researchers have also sought other energy sources to tide over the intermittency. Geothermal energy is a viable alternative since it can be tapped into round-the-clock and even turned off when energy demand is low.

Yet, less than one percent of global energy demand is met through this highly renewable resource since it is not straightforward to access this energy. While the almost unlimited energy source is present just under our feet, accessibility to it can vary from a few hundred feet to many thousand, depending on where on Earth you begin digging.

Moving geothermal offshore

Companies have already moved offshore with geothermal exploration, ideally looking for areas to tap near well-known volcanoes included in the Indo-Pacific Ring of Fire. However, according to renewable energy technology company CGG, the areas around the volcanoes are different, and each needs individual attention to maximize its potential.

In contrast, tectonic plates on the ocean floor are a much more consistent geothermal energy resource, per a whitepaper CGG released. This is due to seafloor spreading, where the moving tectonic plates create gaps on the ocean floor, and magma from under the Earth's crust flows out to create new rock.

Compared to volcanic regions on the ocean floor, tectonic plates offer a much more consistent temperature range, making them suitable for power generation.

Connecting offshore geothermal to land

Schematic explaining how geothermal energy will be transported back to the shore


In its whitepaper, CGG also acknowledges the fact that the location of the tectonic plates won't make it feasible to run power lines that can be connected to the grid. Instead, steam turbines will have to harvest the energy at the site. The electricity generated could be used to produce green hydrogen through electrolysis and shipped to the shore for usage.

Byproducts of the process, such as brine water, could be used for aquaculture, and freshwater collected after cooling down the steam could also be sold where required.

CGG also added that it is patenting technologies to explore this approach of geothermal energy generation. However, the patent aims to prevent them from being used to block this field's development shortly. It will license these technologies to different countries based on their paying capacities.

"We strongly believe that geothermal energy as a baseload resource has a greater role to play in the future energy mix," said Peter Whiting, executive vice president of Geoscience at CGG, in a press release that accompanied the whitepaper. "The opportunity offshore geothermal resources present could be a game-changer in supporting the United Nations Development Programme's 2023 Sustainable Development Goals, including clean energy, climate action, and partnerships for sustainable development."

Originally published on Interesting Engineering : Original article

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