Oil platforms in the ocean and wind platforms in the ocean – we noted recently that energy companies that know offshore oil rigs can use their knowledge to help develop wind platforms in the ocean, too. Same skills – different energy.
Drilling has that same attribute. The knowledge is interchangeable for at least two kinds of energy. Let’s take a look.
Some background. Start way before there was an oil industry. For more than a thousand years there was drilling for salt. It was known as salt boring. Check Daniel Yergin’s book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power. Terrific history of the oil industry that includes this start-up fact. Pulitzer Prize winner.
Oil was known before anyone drilled for it. Petroleum seeped into creeks or onto the ground. People soaked it up in rags and squeezed it out. Precious little product for the effort.
There were few uses for oil, too. Illumination became the first big use, replacing whale oil.
In a twist on finding more oil, drillers converged on Titusville, Pennsylvania, the site of an oil seep, to see if there was a way to find underground reserves of rock oil. They drilled, found reserves.
Salt drillers to oil drillers. Now, oil drillers can become geothermal drillers.
“Geothermal resources are reservoirs of hot water that exist at varying temperatures and depths below the Earth’s surface. Mile-or-more-deep wells can be drilled into underground reservoirs to tap steam and very hot water that can be brought to the surface for use in a variety of applications, including electricity generation, direct use, and heating and cooling.” (Source)
The benefits of geothermal energy:
- Renewable: If the reservoir is managed well it has ongoing life.
- Baseload: Geothermal power plants produce electricity consistently regardless of weather conditions.
- Domestic: It is in the U.S.
- Small Footprint: Geothermal power plants are compact.
- Clean: No greenhouse gasses. Geothermal power plants consume less water on average over the lifetime energy output than the most conventional generation technologies. (Source)
While there has been some interest in geothermal energy in the past, maybe it is growing now. The University of Texas has the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization, to leverage the legacy of oil and gas research and development to enable drilling for geothermal energy anywhere in the world.
Some applications of geothermal energy tap the earth’s temperature near the surface, just like the home in the image on the left. Lots different from deep drilling, of course. The constant temperature from the ground is cooler than hot summer temperatures, and warmer than frigid winter temps. Other uses require drilling far into the earth.
There are three main types of geothermal energy systems: 1) Direct use and district heating systems. 2) Electricity generation power plants. 3) Geothermal heat pumps for buildings. (Source)
The main message here is that various skills used to create one kind of energy can transfer to other uses as well.
The feature image is from a major petroleum drill rig and obtained at the BP Image Library.