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Literature Review Relating To Geothermal Energy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 4656 words Published: 1st May 2017

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The “General Scheme of Geothermal Energy Development Bill 2010” is a publication by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources outlining details of the Geothermal Energy Development Bill which is being drafted. The Bill aims to provide a legislative framework for the vesting, licensing and regulation of geothermal energy. Publication is expected in July 2011.

The ‘Geothermal Energy Resource Map of Ireland’ report was commissioned by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and carried out by the CSA Group (now SLR Consulting Ireland) and was completed in July 2004. The report reviewed existing knowledge of geothermal energy utilisation in Ireland, identified potential resources of geothermal energy in Ireland, created geothermal models of Ireland and produced a series of geothermal maps of Ireland, reviewed the current status and utilisation of geothermal energy resources in Ireland, and provided strategic recommendations regarding future utilisation in the context of International Best Practice. Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (2004) 

The final output of this study, apart from the written report is a series of geothermal maps showing measured and modelled geothermal subsurface temperatures at various depths ranging from 100m to 5000m. This is useful for researchers, consultants and decision members interested in exploring geothermal potential at any location. Sutainable Energy Authority of Ireland (2004) 

(Retrieved 8/11/2010)

2.2 The Kyoto Protocol

2.2.1 Global Warming and Climate Change

Global Warming is the phenomenon whereby the earth’s surface temperature rises over time which causes climatic change. Global Warming is caused by the release of Green House Gases (GHG’s) into the atmosphere thus creating what has become known as the ‘greenhouse effect’. The primary GHG is Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which contributes to global warming through the process of burning fossil fuels. 40% of all CO2 emissions are from power plants, 33% from motor vehicles, and 3.5% from aircraft. (http://globalwarming.com/2009/03/causes-of-global-warming/) (30/11/2010)

2.2.2 Introduction of the Kyoto Protocol

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty formed by the United Nations (UN) at its Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 with the objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

[1] Climate Lab http://climatelab.org/United_Nations_Framework_Convention_on_Climate_Change Retrieved 12/11/2010

The treaty provided for updates or protocols that set mandatory emission limits. The principle update is the Kyoto Protocol which was initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan on 11th December 1997 and came into force on 16th February 2005. Under the Kyoto Protocol, participating Annex 1 countries (industrialised countries and member states of the European Union) agreed to commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gas emissions of 5.2% collectively from 1991 levels. 188 states ratified the protocol including 37 industrialized countries. [2] UNFCCC http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php Retrieved 12/11/2010

One major obstacle for the establishment of the protocol was the refusal of the world’s largest CO2 emitter, the United States, to sign the treaty.

The second major obstacle is that rapidly developing nations like China and India face no legal obligation to meet the limits set out to reduce their GHG emissions. China is the world’s second largest CO2 emitter.

2.2.3 Ireland and the Kyoto Protocol

Ireland signed the Kyoto Protocol on 19th April 1998 and ratified it on 31st May 2002. [3] UNFCCC http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/status_of_ratification/items/2613.php Retrieved 12/11/2010

While the Kyoto Protocol required Annex 1 countries to reduce its GHG emissions by 5.2% between 2008 and 2012, the European Union wishing to show leadership in this area undertook to reduce emissions by 8% for the same period. Although an 8% reduction was sought across the EU, Ireland’s target was an increase of 13% in emissions based on 1990 levels which is the base year for Kyoto limits. This value reflects growth in the economy and expected future growth. This increase is compensated by bigger reductions in other countries. [4] Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. (HKEX)

http://www.hkex.com.hk/consul/paper/cp200906dm_e.pdf Retrieved 12/11/2010

The National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) was published in October 2000 as a basis for government policy in relation to climate change. Its aim was to set Ireland on a pathway to reaching its targets in relation to the Kyoto Protocol. http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Atmosphere/ClimateChange/NationalClimateChangeStrategy/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,923,en.pdf Retrieved 20/12/2010

Ireland’s emissions peaked in 2001 at a time when Ireland was experiencing high employment, a strong economy, and further growth was anticipated. The years to follow showed reduction in emission levels yet the targets set out under the Kyoto Protocol remained what appeared to many to be an over ambitious target. 2002 showed that Ireland was 23% above emissions for 1990. In 2005 emission levels stood at 25% above base level.

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In 2004 and 2005, when it became apparent that more needed to be done to ensure Ireland met its targets, the government intensified its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The 2006 budget saw the introduction of excise relief for biofuels and the introduction of new building regulations to provide higher standards of energy conservation. [5] Ireland’s Pathway to Kyoto Compliance – Review of the National Climate Change Strategy

http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Atmosphere/ClimateChange/NationalClimateChangeStrategy/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,1289,en.pdf Retrieved 12/11/2010

The National Climate Change Strategy 2007 – 2012 was published in order to show clearly the measures by which Ireland will meet its 2008 – 2012 commitment, to show how these measures will sustain post 2012, and to identify the areas in which further measures are being researched and developed to enable Ireland to meet its 2020 commitments. The report states that “electricity generation from renewable sources provides the most effective way of reducing the contribution of power generation to Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions”.

[6] National Climate Change Strategy 2007 -2012

http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/Environment/Atmosphere/FileDownLoad,1861,en.pdf Retrieved 12/11/2010

The strategy shows the range of measures which have been developed that aim to reduce Ireland’s carbon dioxide equivalent by 17 million tonnes (Mt).

With regard to electricity generation, the aim is 15% of energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2010 and 33% by 2020, biomass to contribute 30% of energy input at peat stations by 2015, support for combined heat and power projects, and formation of the National Ocean Energy Strategy.

2.2.3 Looking Beyond 2012

Steps have already been taken to introduce a new treaty to operate once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 15) agreed the Copenhagen Accord to the UNFCCC in December 2009. Whilst not legally binding, the Accord endorses the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. 114 countries representing over 80% of global GHG emissions have agreed to the accord including Ireland. Many have concerns regarding the Accord because it is not legally binding and no legally binding replacement exists for the Kyoto Protocol, the Accord was drafted by just 5 countries, and the Accord sets no real targets to achieve emission reductions. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8423831.stm (23/12/2010)

2.2.4 The Stern Report

‘The Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change’ was published for the British Government in 2006 by economist Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham, Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. The key message of the Stern Report is as follows:

What is going to happen to the climate over the next 20-30 years has already been determined and is irreversible. Actions over the next 20-30 years will affect what happens in the decades to come.

Climate change threatens the basic elements of life including access to water, food, health, land use and the environment.

Stabilization of all GHG’s at 550ppm is recommended.

The costs of stablilizing the climate are significant (1% of global GDP) but manageable. Delay would be dangerous and much more expensive.

Action demands and international response.

The key actions outlines by Stern include:

Increase in efficiency of energy use.

Strict emission trading rules to support the transition to low carbon development paths.

Extensive use of renewable and other low carbon technologies.

Fivefold increase in low carbon technologies Research and Development.

Reduction in deforestation.

Freris, L & Infield, D. (2008) Renewable Energy in Power Systems. West Sussex, UK: Wiley

2.3 EU Policy

2.3.1 General

European countries generate more than 4000 GWh/year from geothermal sources predominantly in Italy, Iceland, Turkey and Russia. Direct use such as GSHP usage is however, much more widespread with usage in most European countries. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/library/geotherm.pdf (23/12/2010)

High availability and low carbon emissions make geothermal energy one of the best prospects for influencing GHG emissions in Europe.

The European Union has been one of the most consistent supporters of the Kyoto Protocol.

Member states of the EU have made a commitment to be met by 2020 known as the ’20-20-20 target’. These are to reduce GHG emissions 20% below 1990 levels, ensure 20% of EU’s energy comes from renewable sources, and ensure a 20% reduction in primary energy consumption compared with projected levels, to be achieved by improving energy efficiency. These commitments were outlined following the need for a follow on from the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

In 2005 renewable energy accounted for just 8.5% of energy consumed in the EU. The need to in4crease this figure is recognized by the EU and measures have been taken to encourage member states to expand their renewable energy production and to rely less on conventional carbon emitting energy production systems.

Europe is also at the front of cutting edge new geothermal energy research with an ongoing European Hot Dry Rock (HDR) project at Soultz-sous-Forets in France which is supported by the EU.

2.3.2 Blue Book on Geothermal Resources

The EU published its ‘Blue Book on Geothermal Resources’ in 2002 in order to identify a series of measures which could promote the use of geothermal energy sources across the EU. The publication corresponded with the need for Europe to expand on renewable energy sources in order to meet its targets of 12% by 2010. The publication acknowledges that expanding use of geothermal resources will show a significant reduction to CO2 emissions and thus help make Kyoto targets more achievable. A geothermal energy generation plant produces on average just 136 g/kWh of CO2 compared to 1042 g/kWh for a typical coal fired power plant.

The report recommends that the EU increase the exploitation of geothermal energy in the EU and associated countries and to support European firms within the sector to improve their share of the world market.

The Blue Book outlines 12 measures the EU proposed to take to enhance the usage of geothermal technologies in Europe as follows:

To stimulate the creation of European consortia and joint ventures among different subjects interested in investing in geothermal projects in Europe and abroad.

To favour National Geothermal Associations and the European branch of the International Geothermal Association (IGA).

To support the newly created European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC).

The maintenance and improvement of the EU’s existing research and financing programmes.

To promote the environmental benefits of geothermal energy through favourable financing conditions such as tax exemptions or reductions, tax incentives, financial incentives for end users, loans and special interest rates for investment in RE resources.

Geothermal energy should be included in specific ‘target projects’ and demonstration projects both as an environmentally friendly resource and as an indigenous energy supply for saving imported fossil fuels.

To establish an insurance system for EU countries in order to cover the geological risk.

Implement proper actions devoted to the systematic integration of geothermal energy into existing and new EU and national RE development programmes.

Promote directives in order to acknowledge RE investments (including geothermal) with an extra price or a contribution for the KWhe/KWht produced which corresponds to the external benefit derived from the substitution of conventional energy sources.

Increase the use of information brochures and actions of the “Multi-energy” type, with the objective of increasing the level of information and confidence of using geothermal energy by decision-makers, private and public operators, town planners, designers, even within EU programmes.

Promote a detailed study for the evaluation, in quantitative terms of the external benefits from substitution by geothermal applications.

Considering the good development perspectives of this application, special attention could be devoted to the promotion and support for the GSHP market.

2.3.3 Energy 2020

‘Energy 2020 – A strategy for competitive, sustainable, and secure energy’ was published by the European Commission on 10th November 2010. It sets out ambitious targets for member states with regards to energy. Known as the 20-20-20 policy, member states are required to:

Reduce GHG emissions by 20%, rising to 30% provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and economically more advanced developing countries contributing adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities.

Increase the share of renewable energy to 20%

Make a 20% improvement in energy efficiency.

There is also an ambitious target of 80 – 95% emission cuts by 2050 amongst EU and other industrialized countries. These targets are fully supported by the European Parliament.

The commission proposes to focus its initiatives on the traffic and building sectors which it believes provide the biggest potential for energy savings and to provide investment incentives and financial instruments to promote energy reductions.

2.4 Irish Policy

2.4.1 General

Ireland’s policy regarding energy and renewable energy is largely based upon meeting targets set out under both the Kyoto Protocol and the European Commission’s 2020 energy targets. A White Paper released in March 2007 sets out the Government’s Energy Policy for 2007 – 2020 which includes reaching 15% of energy produced from renewable sources by 2010 and 33% by 2020. To date, progress has been made mainly due to the wind energy sector.

Since 2006, Ireland introduced a ‘feed in tariff’ which pays a fixed rate for energy input to the national grid from renewable sources.

2.4.2 The REFIT Scheme

Between 1995 and 2003 Ireland operated a tender or Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) scheme to promote RES-E. This scheme was replaced in 2006 when Ireland introduced the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff (REFIT) as a major instrument towards encouraging expansion of the RES-E sector in Ireland. The scheme financially rewards input into the national electricity grid from renewable sources outlined in table x.x below. As part of the scheme there is a 15 year guarantee which aims to provide investor security.

Geothermal energy is not currently included in the REFIT programme which is one major obstacle to the growth of the geothermal electricity generation sector in Ireland. The National Renewable Energy Action Plan (2010) outlines plans to extend the scheme to include Anaerobic Digestion/High Efficiency Combined Heat and Power (CHP) biomass technologies, ocean (wave and tidal) energy and offshore wind.

2.4.2 Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland

Building on the energy “Green Paper” and related consultation process conducted during 2006, the Irish government released a energy “White Paper” in March 2007 outlining the Irish Government’s Energy Policy Framework 2007 – 2020 to deliver sustainable energy future for Ireland. Ireland faces similar energy challenges to those being confronted worldwide.

The document also reasserts Ireland’s prohibition of the use of Nuclear energy in Ireland on grounds of safety fears, security, economic feasibility, and system operation.

2.4.3 Geothermal Energy Development Bill 2010

In a debate with The Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security on 16th September 2009, GT Energy who have since submitted a planning application to South Dublin County Council to develop a Geothermal Energy Plant at Newcastle, Co. Dublin, outlined their concerns regarding obstacles they faced with the existing legislative framework. They outlined that their investors and board of directors were uneasy with the lack of legislation and scope within planning regulations to allow for their proposed development.

Arising from this debate and increasing pressure from other sources, the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources decided to draft the Geothermal Energy Development Bill 2010.

The bill is currently in draft form and publication is expected in July 2011. The bill will allow for the licensing of companies to explore for and develop deep geothermal energy resources. Under the EU Directive on the Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources (2009/28/EC), Ireland is required to generate 16% of its gross energy consumption from renewable resources by 2020 and 12% of its heat consumption. As Ireland is currently highly dependent on the use of fossil fuels for energy production, it is vital that measures are taken to expand the use of available renewable energy options. Already, large scale hydroelectric and wind energy developments are operational, but further advances are needed. The move by the Irish Government to draft a Geothermal Energy Bill is another step towards regulation and legislating what could become another major large scale renewable energy production industry for Ireland.

The need for the Bill is based on the feeling that Ireland lacks a comprehensive legal and regulatory that provides the allocation of ownership interests and ancillary rights in the resource. Third party interests were also not protected in a systematic manner and as a result, potential investors in the sector are deterred from making significant commitment in Ireland.

The bill will be able to grant exploration and development licences for deep geothermal energy resources and regulate the ownership of resources, ancillary rights and the protection of third party interests.

The Bill aims to pursue two main policy objectives by facilitating the development of large scale geothermal energy in order to increase its contribution to Irelands renewable energy targets and to avoid over regulation of small scale projects.

The EU Directive on the Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources (2009/28/EC) has set a target that 16% of gross energy consumption in Ireland will need to come from renewable sources by 2020. The Directive recognises geothermal energy as one of the means by which this target can be met. The heat market in Ireland consumes approximately one third of primary energy supply and is very highly dependant on fossil fuels. Alternatives to fossil fuels for direct heating include biomass, Combined Heat and Power (CHP), and geothermal energy.

The introduction of this legislation is also based on the introduction of regulation and legislation in other countries. Sweden, for example, has inferior geothermal resources compared to Ireland, and yet its utilisation is much greater. This can be attributed to Swedens regulatory system which provides a solid licensing system and security for potential investors.

Article 10.1 of the Constitution states that “All natural resources, including the air and all forms of potential energy, within the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution and all royalties and franchises within that jurisdiction belong to the State subject to all estates and interests therein for the time being lawfully vested in any person or body.” This in effect, gives ownership of the geothermal energy resource to the Irish State.

2.4.4 National Renewable Energy Action Plan (2010)

The National Renewable Energy Action Plan (2010) was published under the requirements of Article 4 of Directive 2009/28/EC on renewable energy. The plan sets out Ireland’s national targets for the share of renewable energy from different sources in 2020 and demonstrates how Ireland will meet its overall national target established under the Directive.

Ireland’s overall target is to achieve 16% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 however, the government has set a target of 40%. Although ambitious, in the past Ireland has surpassed the target set undet the 2001 European RES-E Directive which required an increase from 3.6% RES-E in 2001 to 13.2% in 2010. In 2009, this target was already surpassed with Ireland achieving 14.4% RES-E. This increase is largely attributed to the development of onshore wind sources.

In terms of transport, the plan outlines the governments two pronged strategy to increase the use of biofuels and accelerated development and use of electric vehicles in Ireland. A target of 10% of electric vehicles has been set for 2020.

A target of 12% renewable heat by 2020 has also been set. Initial focus will be on biomass but geothermal resources will also be considered in due course.


2.5 Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)

2.5.1 General

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), formerly the Irish Energy Centre, was set up by the government in 2002 with the mission to transform Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy structures, technologies and practices.

The ‘Geothermal Energy Resource Map of Ireland’ final report was published by SEAI in July 2004 along with resource mapping which was compiled following extensive testing and research carried out by The CSA Group. The report focuses mainly on the use of geothermal for heating purposed rather than electricity production.

The report looks at historic use of geothermal energy in Ireland, current use, and possible future uses. It found that Ireland is particularly well suited for the use of Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) as suitable temperatures for this technology can be found at relatively low depths. Various examples of current geothermal use in Ireland are outlined.

2.5.3 Geothermal Usage in Ireland to Date

Ground Source Heat Pumps are the most common type of geothermal energy utilisation in Ireland to date with over a thousand domestic installations up to 2004. GSHP technology is examined in more detail in Chapter 3.

Apart from domestic usage, geothermal energy usage is quite limited in Ireland with only a handful of installations in offices, universities etc.

Tramore Civic Offices, Co. Waterford mains supply flows through a purpose built 500,000 litre reservoir. Some of this water is then piped through an open loop to a heat exchanger. The mains water transfers the heat but is kept separate to the heat exchange operation in order to keep it potable.

UCC Art Museum uses drilled borehole technology with water rising at 20 litres/sec to 2 heat exchanging units to heat the 3 storey building.

Mallow Swimming Pool, Co. Cork also uses a borehole to provide heat for the swimming pool. The water is approximately 19.5°c and is boosted by conventional means at the pool.

2.5.3 Geothermal Resource Mapping

As part of their report, CSA also compiled a comprehensive set of maps showing Irelands geothermal properties at various locations and depths. In order to carry out the mapping, CSA embarked on a process to gather as much information as they could from exiting boreholes, from previous studies and from data available from Imperial College, London, Minerex, Tara Exploration etc.

A database was formed consisting of borehole ID, co-ordinates, depth tested, basal temperature, surface temperature (assumed to be 10°c where not available), depth (20-100m intervals), temperature (20-100m intervals), geothermal gradient (20-100m intervals) and finally inflection point in the geothermal gradient profile, where applicable.

2.5.3 Geothermal at shallow depths (0-100m)

The report finds that Ireland is particularly well suited for the exploitation of Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) technology. GHSPs are heating systems that pump or transfer heat to or from the ground. These systems use the earth’s relatively constant temperature to provide heating, cooling, and hot water for homes and commercial buildings. This technology is the most common use of geothermal energy in Ireland to date. Typically in Ireland, horizontal closed loop systems are used, positioned 0.6 – 1.0m below ground surface although often as deep as 2.0m. Soil temperatures in Ireland range from 10Ëšc – 11Ëšc. (Aldwell and Burdon 1980)

2.5.4 Geothermal at medium to deep depths (100-5000m)

One of the major limitations of this report in terms of its deep geothermal resource assessment is that there was only a very limited amount of deep geothermal data available on which assessment could be based. It is therefore, not possible to identify locations where good deep geothermal resources exist outside a few known locations.

The results from the measurement and modelling of 98 boreholes as part of the study indicate that the best proven potential for medium and deep geothermal resources in the Republic of Ireland are in the northeast and northwest midlands where temperatures of up to 40°c – 60°c are recorded at depths of 1000m. From the study it is also interpreted that at 2500m depth from surface there is potential for temperatures of 60°c generally north of the Limerick – Dublin line with ‘hot spots’ in the region of 80°c in Co. Clare, the east midlands and Co. Cavan. At 5000m depth values greater than 100°c are predicted north of the Limerick – Dublin line.

Figure x.x is the Lindal diagram which shows the applications for geothermal resources depending on temperature.



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