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It seems that Tuscany’s Apennine Mountains could provide a geothermal well that output unlimited clean energy, according to the latest report by Wired. The well is called Venelle-2, but like all geothermal wells, there is the risk of an earthquake if you drill it past the K horizon.
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The well has, in fact, been drilled till that boundary, but going past it overwhelmed the equipment. However, a new paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research is showing that the well can be safely drilled past that point without any major seismic activity.
Riccardo Minetto, a researcher at the University of Geneva and co-author of the study, tells Wired that Venelle-2 shows that “there are also many positive cases of wells drilled for geothermal purposes." Going deeper would mean accessing supercritical fluids, mineral-rich water that has the characteristics of both a liquid and a gas, and that is where the real unlimited energy lies.
However, despite the study, one should not proceed without caution. Minetto says that future attempts at drilling for supercritical fluids “might induce larger seismic events.”
Both an earthquake in South Korea last year and one a few years earlier in Basel, Switzerland, were linked to geothermal wells. But does this apply to supercritical fluids? Do they have more of an earthquake risk than traditional geothermal wells? Minetto said that “there are still too many unknowns about supercritical fluids to give a proper answer.”
A PR problem
Even without the earthquake risks, however, geothermal energy is struggling to attract investors, and this may be a public relations problem. “Geothermal suffers from a bit of a marketing problem,” told Wired Jeffrey Bielicki, leader of the Energy Sustainability Research Laboratory at Ohio State University. “Even though it has a lot of beneficial characteristics, when people say ‘renewable energy’ they’re usually referring to wind and solar.”
Could we be overlooking a crucial source of clean, unlimited energy? If so, it may be time to reconsider.