New frontiers

Technological development and the need to retrieve energy from the highest possible number of sources are contributing to the rediscovery of geothermal energy and an increase of its areas of utilisation: of the “clean and cheap” energy provided by our planet, nothing is wasted! Using systems of heat pumps, which extract heat from a fluid using small quantities of electricity, heat that is then yielded to a heat tank, waters with very low temperatures can be used for domestic heating, up to 30-40° C. The same waters can be used directly with panel heating systems instead of heaters. Currently there are studies concentrating on the exploitation of the so called hot dry rock fields. At high depths (around 5,000 m), even under normal heat flux conditions, the majority of the rocks is sufficiently hot to be able to fuel a geothermal system. If the warmth from the Earth is always available, sometimes though the other fundamental “ingredient” for the use of geothermal resources is missing: underground water circulation. In this case, nature has to be “helped” to create a tank that will aide the formation of a geothermal system: cold waters are artificially pumped into deep wells, after having seen to the fracturation of the surrounding rocks to allow the water to penetrate, in order to recreate an aquifer system similar to a natural geothermal field, from which it is possible to draw heated waters.
In some areas of the Earth, such as the Mexico Gulf, geothermal systems have been discovered at a depth of 4,000 m, where hot waters are mixed with methane at very high pressures: in this case, the exploitation would yield geothermal energy as well as significant quantities of hydrocarbons. The Hawaii islands, thanks to the heat of the various active volcanoes, also constitute a formidable experimental ground. For example, there is an ongoing experiment for the production of hydrogen from very hot waters that are heated by volcanic magma, the temperatures of which are around 900-1,200° C. What however represents the ultimate frontier in this field of research is the possibility to put organic waste in contact with hot magma to produce gaseous hydrocarbons. Will man really be able to reproduce Nature’s processes to create energy?

Special reports

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    Carbon Footprint

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    13 May 2013

    Small steps, great footprints

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    Ecological house

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    18 May 2011

    Artificial photosynthesis

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  • 22 May 2016

    Green chemistry

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    18 January 2016

    Ten years of oil demand

    Eni has recently published the 14th edition of the 2015 World Oil and Gas Review...

From the Multimedia section

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    Geothermal power plant

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    Energy of Earth

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    Geyser in Yellowstone Park

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    Spas

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    Japanese macaques

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    Temperature and depth

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    Installed power of geothermal plants in Italy

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    Diagram of a geothermal power plant

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    Number of geothermal power plants in Italy

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  • energy

    Geothermal power plant

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    energy

    Energy of Earth

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  • energy

    Geyser in Yellowstone Park

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    energy

    Spas

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  • energy

    Japanese macaques

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    energy

    Temperature and depth

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  • energy

    Geothermal power plant

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  • energy

    Energy of Earth

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  • energy

    Geyser in Yellowstone Park

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Facts

  • 16 May 2011

    An artificial geyser

    Electric and thermal power produced from geothermal energy depend on the existence of underground infiltrations...

    Hydrogen from biomass

    Hydrogen is an energy carrier that allows to generate energy in an environmentally sustainable way...

  • Porto Marghera Hydrogen Park

    In Porto Marghera (Venice), the Hydrogen Park was created. It is the biggest centre in the world for hydrogen production...

    Hydrogen from the sugar cane

    The Centro di Ricerca Interuniversitario per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile (CIRPS) carried out a study in Peru...

  • 14 June 2011

    Some curiosities about methane hydrates

    The melting of the ice cells, not only brings about the release of methane gas, but it also produces another…

    16 May 2011

    The “wave-swallowing” dragon

    Wave Dragon, that swallows waves and generates electricity is a plant...

  • An artificial geyser

    Electric and thermal power produced from geothermal energy depend on the existence of underground infiltrations...

  • Hydrogen from biomass

    Hydrogen is an energy carrier that allows to generate energy in an environmentally sustainable way...

  • Porto Marghera Hydrogen Park

    In Porto Marghera (Venice), the Hydrogen Park was created. It is the biggest centre in the world for hydrogen production...