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Oil Giants Are Now Interested To Invest In Geothermal Energy

Geothermal geysers

Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total, have now an increased interest to invest in geothermal and heat power developer startups.

The Geothermal Resource It’s Just Below Us

No matter where you are in the world, if you dig down deep enough, you will always hit hot rocks.

The Earth’s core is almost as hot (5,430°C or 9,800°F) as the surface of the Sun, and through convection, the heat warms the outer layers of the planet. Much of this heat comes from the gravitational forces created when our planet was formed (about 4 billion years go).

Some heat is generated through friction when denser elements are making their way to the Earth’s core. The other source of Earth’s internal heat is produced in the upper mantle and crust, where the decay of radioactive isotopes like Potassium-40, creates energy and in turn heat.

If mankind can find a way to safely and cost effectively access that heat, the energy problems of our civilization would be solved pretty quickly.

This is one of the reasons why oil giants are now interested to invest in geothermal energy.

Geothermal Startups Receiving Capital Boosts From Oil Giants

Several geothermal startups are taking advantage of technologies, previously used by the oil and gas industry. This way they can harvest the underground heat using horizontal drilling. Horizontal drilling allows to much greater access to oil, gas and geothermal resources.

Technologies such as EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems) can create a geothermal reservoir where one did not previously exist. It acts similarly as fracking (drilling down and injecting water at high pressure), but allows water to flow through, creating a reservoir.

The water is heated by the hot rocks and then is brought back to the surface using the production well. The steam is used to spin a turbine and generate electricity.

The Department of Energy says that EGS has a vast potential to generate geothermal energy in the U.S. (about 100 GW).

There are also companies pursuing for AGS (Advanced Geothermal Systems), which is actually a subsurface heat exchange system.

It works using two wells connected by a sealed pipe (GreenFire Energy) or several lateral pipes (Eavor Technologies).
A highly conductive fluid (water or something better) circulates throughout the pipes, picking up heat from the surrounding rocks and carrying it to the surface.

This is a pure conductive system, because no water is going out of the rock or into the rock, which means no toxicity, no contamination, no seismic risk, etc.

Greenfire wants to modify old, existing wells, using the new closed-loop technology.

At the same time, the geothermal resource available at the surface in many areas of the planet, can be harvested in a more complex way to dramatically expand the current capacity.

With retrofits like these, the capital expenditure is relatively low, and the payback is relatively fast, because you don’t need to drill a well.

GreenFire will move forward to create geothermal resources in places where the rocks are hotter and drier.

New Technologies Can Double Geothermal’s Share In The Energy Mix Of The U.S.

Using new technologies, we can double the amount of geothermal energy produced yearly within 15 years.

Sage Geosystems is another company founded in June 2020, by former oil and gas industry veterans.

Because they consider that there is not one single optimum geothermal design solution for all applications and all subsurface environments, they want to incorporate elements of both EGS and AGS.

Sage Geosystems plans to drill a well and fracture the rock directly below it with a high conductive and convective liquid, to transfer heat easily and make the hot matter to rise.
Then, a closed-loop system will be built within that well and above the fractured rock.

A fluid will circulate throughout the loop and will heat up through conduction. The fluid will become extremely hot because the fractures below will be bringing up heat from deep within the Earth.

This creates an opportunity to use various technologies and combine elements of EGS and AGS solutions, to make the concept of geothermal anywhere a reality.

All this interest in geothermal energy is a great opportunity for oil and gas giants like Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Total, etc.

These companies are seeking ways to green their portfolios, while holding tight to their core skill set of exploring and extracting energy resources from deep within the Earth.

Oil Giants In Europe Follow The Same Trend

Major companies in Europe such as Shell, BP and Total, have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050.

However, the American oil giants like Chevron and ExxonMobil, have invested in low-carbon tech, but have not yet followed suit in terms of carbon neutrality.

By now, the American oil and gas giants seemed less interested to invest in solar and wind because they don’t have the expertise, but geothermal is a different story.

Focusing on surface modeling and advanced drilling, geothermal has become and attractive option for highly specialized engineers and blue-collar workers in the oil and gas industry.

2021 created a great opportunity for geothermal to benefit from the skill base and capital available in the oil and gas sector.

Chevron and BP’s investment in Eavor Technologies has kicked off talks about other partnerships and funding available in the future to increase the generation capacity for geothermal.

It is more than certain that the geothermal sector will further benefit in the future from investments made by the oil and gas giants, but is also sure that more than several more companies will get involved.

Geothermal energy at the surface

The geothermal resource is right under our feet, image source:

A Reliable Source Of Clean Power

Geothermal has some major advantages over other renewables such as solar and wind. The geothermal resource can be used to heat buildings in a cost-effective way compared to solar and wind because it works directly without needing to be converted first into electricity.

Geothermal power plants can be built close to population centers because this way, the hot water coming from the underground can be used to generate clean electricity, heat and cool buildings, and create public bathing areas.

However, the main advantage of geothermal power is created by the fact that it can be used as baseload power.

Geothermal does not need massive investments in battery storage to attain some level of reliability like solar and wind. The economics of geothermal definitely start to look better.


Many experts consider that it is just a matter of incremental technological improvements to bring the cost of exploration and drilling down.

Geothermal is a great resource of free, clean and reliable power for our civilization, and hopefully, the technology will allow us to build in the near future, geothermal power plants anywhere in the world.

Article written by:

I am a writer and reporter for the clean energy sector, I cover climate change issues, new clean technologies, sustainability and green cars. Danny Ovy

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