Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Two Major Geothermal Projects Abandoned Due to Induced Quake Risk
Geopower Basel's Drill Geopower Basel
Two high-profile geothermal projects in the U.S. and Europe were both permanently halted late last week, after federal officials in both countries questioned their safety and propensity to cause earthquakes. Projects in Basel, Switzerland, and in northern California were both abandoned, raising questions about the danger of purposefully cracking open the Earth to extract its heat.
The California project, operated by a firm called AltaRock, had been halted since September after the company ran into repeated snags with a drill. The project, about 100 miles north of San Francisco in an area called The Geysers, had also been under a U.S. Department of Energy review, according to the New York Times.
The Swiss project had been on hold since late 2006, when it caused earthquakes in the city of Basel, doing about $9 million in mostly minor damage to homes and businesses.
Both projects used an "enhanced geothermal" system, which works by fracturing bedrock and circulating water through the cracks to superheat it and produce steam. The steam would be used to spin turbines in a power plant. Read more.