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Stanford geoscientist cites critical need for basic research to unleash promising energy sources
Date:12/4/2012

"There is a critical need for scientists to address basic questions that have hindered the development of emerging energy resources, including geothermal, wind, solar and natural gas, from underground shale formations," said Mark Zoback, a professor of geophysics at Stanford University. "In this talk we present, from a university perspective, a few examples of fundamental research needs related to improved energy and resource recovery."

Zoback, an authority on shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy's Committee on Shale Gas Development. His remarks will be presented in collaboration with Jeff Tester, an expert on geothermal energy from Cornell University, and Murray Hitzman, a leader in the study of "energy critical elements" from the Colorado School of Mines.

Enhanced geothermal systems

"One option for transitioning away from our current hydrocarbon-based energy system to non-carbon sources is geothermal energy from both conventional hydrothermal resources and enhanced geothermal systems," said Zoback, a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford.

Unlike conventional geothermal power, which typically depends on heat from geysers and hot springs near the surface, enhanced geothermal technology has been touted as a major source of clean energy for much of the planet.

The idea is to pump water into a deep well at pressures strong enough to fracture hot granite and other high-temperature rock miles below the surface. These fractures enhance the permeability of the rock, allowing the water to circulate and become hot.

A second well delivers steam back to the surface. The steam is used to drive a turbine that produces electricity with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions. The steam eventually cools and is re-injected underground and recycled to the surface.

In 2006, Tester co-authored a major report on the subject, estimating tha
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Contact: Mark Shwartz, Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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