For eons and as far back as history could tell, humankind has been tapping into the power of geothermal energy as a sustainable source of energy. Not to mention that we realized later that it is a clean source of power, meaning it is not detrimental to the surrounding environment.
The indigenous people from all over the planet cook their daily food from the water of natural hot springs. The Maoris of New Zealand, for instance, are known for this kind of practice and they are bound to pass it on to their next generation. Did you know that even the ancient Romans engineered a way to harness the earth’s heat and divert this towards their buildings? This engineering marvel they pioneered in allowed them to warm up their houses during the coldest times of the year for soothing comfort.
Now, we move fast forward to the modern era. We drill deep into the earth to create geothermal wells so we can tap into the earth’s heat that is radiating from its core. We transform this into electricity to power up homes, buildings, manufacturing facilities and many others.
However, there is one challenge that has remained associated with geothermal wells all these years and that is the presence of hard rocks which is inevitable. They actually work against any kind of drilling techniques you will use in a drilling project and will slow down the work. Not to mention also that they accelerate the wearing down of your drill bits.With this kind of scenario in mind, this will likely extend your drilling time and alongside that is the increase of your drilling expense, too.
In order to surmount such a challenge, a drilling technology known as the Shockwave and Plasma Accelerated Rock Cracking or SPARC was developed by the Texas A&M University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering team. By virtue of laying out the foundations for an easier, more convenient, and cost-effective way to create geothermal wells, the U.S. Department of Energy initiated funding for the project. The long term benefit of which will make geothermal energy a more viable form of power as opposed to the use of fossil fuels.
The said drilling technology being worked on is capable of increasing drilling rates or the rate of penetration. Moreover, it would also alleviate the wear and tear of the drill bits used in the traditional drilling work. This can be made possible by precracking or prestressing the rock being drilled just before the drill bit cutting action takes place.
This technological breakthrough, SPARC, will be equipping the tip traditional drill bits with electrodes of high voltage. What makes them distinct is that they are capable of emitting a microscopic plasma discharge that will shock the hard rocks under the ground and crack them open with a tiny explosion. The fractures created will help in weakening the rock, consequently allowing the drill head to penetrate through them with their traditional diamond cutters
Apart from setting the stage for geothermal energy and its further development, the use of electric plasma burst will not just help increase our drill techniques’ rate of penetration but it will also significantly help an awful lot in streamlining our drilling processes so that, ultimately, we will have an even more cost competitive form of energy production.
We consider geothermal energy as one of the most efficient base-load resources of clean energy. Hence, it just makes sense if we will make it an integral part of our country’s diverse energy portfolio. These new developments in drilling techniques will significantly help in cost alleviation and put up the availability for this renewable resource of energy.