Subsurface Energy sollutions
New developments in Subsurface Energy sollutionsNot directly petroleum related this short essay does talk about several new developments related to energy extraction and storage in the subsurface; Comments are welcome!
Several new developments and theories concerning energy and environmental related issues where geologists can or have play(ed) a role in are:
Extraction of Oil sands/shales; New Shell technology will be able to extract oil from oil sands by heating the earth. A cold ice layer will be created around the heated area, to prevent leakage of oil and other pollutants.
Subsurface Hydrogen production; Microbial hydrogen generation of fossil fuels at depth may be possible due to Geobacteriaceae. These micro organism can live under anaerobe conditions and oxidize a variety of aromatic hydrocarbons reducing them to Fe(III). If a graphite electrode is used small electrical currents can be produced. By using these organism to produce energy while consuming hydrocarbons and keeping CO2 in place clean energy could be produced.
Subsurface Hydrogen storage; As research on the production of hydrogen cells to be used in cars and other machinery increases the need for storing this hydrogen also increases. Geologists may need to find large subsurface reservoirs that could hold hydrogen in the future.
The increasing pollution and anthropogenic CO2 calls for new ways to produce energy and for ways to remove or reduce atmospheric CO2. A large amount of projects related to these problems rely on subsurface reservoirs. By extracting cleaner energy, like geothermal plants or subsurface hydrogen production the amount of CO2 and pollutants emitted to the atmosphere can be reduced. By storing CO2 in the ground the excess CO2 can be removed from, or never emitted into, the atmosphere. And by using better oil extraction techniques and heat pump systems a lot of energy can be saved.
All these techniques rely on knowledge of the subsurface. Geologists will therefore need to understand why and how certain processes occur. They will need to better understand fluid flow through pores, faults and fissures. And they will need to understand chemical and biological processes related to the sequestration of CO2.
Without this knowledge and understanding, projects will not be feasible or efficient and, more important, might cause more environmental problems in the long run. It is vital that all unnatural processes mankind is about to inflict on this earth have no negative effect on our world for a very long time. Only by looking at the results of millions of years of geological processes will we know if this is the case.