67: Geothermal Energy with Carlos Araque

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Hosted by
Will Jarvis

Carlos is the CEO and founder of Quaise. https://www.quaise.energy/ In this episode, we talk about how Geothermal and Nuclear are the only energy technologies that have the capability to meet humanity’s energy needs, the challenges with ultradeep drilling, and how to create cheap and renewable energy to power humanity into the future. 

Will Jarvis 0:05
Hey folks, welcome to narratives. narratives is a podcast exploring the ways in which the world is better than in the past, the ways that is worse in the past towards a better, more definite vision of the future. I’m your host, William Jarvis. And I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. You can find show notes, transcripts and videos at narratives podcast.com.

Carlos, how are you doing today?

Carlos Araque 0:46
I’m doing great. Always trying to make geothermal bigger. We need terawatts sources of geothermal power, the very few ones that can make you happy to tell you about it.

Will Jarvis 0:55
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Do you mind giving us kind of a brief bio and you know how you got interested in geothermal as technology?

Carlos Araque 1:04
Yeah, so I am a mechanical engineer. I am from Columbia originally. And I came to MIT as an undergrad and master’s student. When I finished that, I went to work for the oil industry, I work for slumber J. They are one of the largest companies a providing technology for oil and gas, but not not quite the oil and gas companies themselves, but the companies who provide the technologies for them. So I was always very technical, very, very close to what it takes to to develop technology to do one of the largest human activities in history, right? exploiting oil. Fast forward 15 years. So I’ve traveled all over the world worked in many, many large teams all over the world. And I was increasingly seeing the need, personally, to to transition energy. Of course, it’s obvious every you know, we need to transition energy. But you know, I was running the numbers like a good engineer and trying to see what can actually transition energy away from fossil fuels. But what can actually replay that terawatts of energy we take for granite around the world, and geothermal and nuclear were one of the very few options that could actually do it. Long story short, decided that the company decided to learn venture capital decided to fund this company, when I found out some of the ideas from MIT, which we’ll be talking about today, and started a journey with quake. So really, a person that’s been close to energy, very technical, having an understanding of what it takes to transition energy, taking a liking for one of the two, in my opinion function that can actually concessionary

Will Jarvis 2:38
That’s great. That’s great. And I’d like geothermal because it seems to solve a lot of the challenges, you know, people talk a lot about solar, but you can’t use solar when the sun doesn’t shine. You know, wind doesn’t work when the winds not blowing. Nuclear sounds like a good option. But you know, why? Why geothermal, geothermal over nuclear, you know, what was your thought process there? And of course, there like some really, regulatory problems with nuclear seems to be the real deal is like, it’s just disallowed from being done.

Carlos Araque 3:07
Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. So my thought process actually starts at a higher level that you know, you know, those are human imposed things, and we can solve them, we can set our minds to it, but physics or physics, and physics will only let you do so much, right. So it really started that. So let me take you through that. So when you look at the world runs on 20 terawatts of energy. Forget if that fossil or nuclear or wind or so it doesn’t matter what it actually takes to run our civilization to the 20 terawatts. That means 20 trillion joules per second, every second of every day, 25 years ago, it was half of that was 1050 years ago, it was 520 years in the future is going to be double. It’s been doubling every 25 years. And that’s just a result of population growth. And the things we as humans do, you know, we discover new things that we can do with energy, and we do them. So so we’re talking about trying to transition into a future world where we’ll need at least 40 terawatts to run the world. Now, we want all of that to be clean, carbon free, because we have an issue with global warming, everybody is starting to accept that’s fairly mainstream. So what does it take? or What does the world look like at 40 terawatts. And where can that come from? You look at primary energy sources, where can it come from? And again, I’m not talking about whether it’s electricity or hydrogen or, or fuel x versus fuel. Why we’re talking about where does the energy come from. There’s only three places where you can come from fossil fuels, disqualified nuclear fields, and there’s a few of them there’s thorium, there’s atonium, there’s Iranian there’s hydrogen as a fusion nuclear source and renewables, wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal, all of those, but there’s really three big buckets. What does Can they do 40 terawatts. When you look at the physics of doing 40 terawatts, you realize that only nuclear and in the renewables, only geothermal can actually do it. None of the other renewables can, is just a physical limit. If we were to do 40 terawatts of solder, we run out of land, you know, we have actually not an option. We can scale solar big time, but at 40 terawatts, we’re not even close to get in there. The same goes for wind. Geothermal is the only one right, so it’s really between nuclear and geothermal. So then nuclear, what are they? Right? patient? geopolitically, geopolitically? Very, very difficult, you know, very difficult. We’ve had it for a while now. And it’s really not kidding. Because it’s definitely difficult geopolitically, for good reason. And fusion. Fusion is amazing. We need to be a fusion civilization eventually. But futuristic while right even if we have fusion tomorrow, the people, the millions of workers, that it will be required to scale fusion worldwide, haven’t been born. Right. So to me, it’s a solution for the second half of the century. So that leaves you with one and only one option. Geothermal, of course, I’m biased. But that was my thought process.

Will Jarvis 6:24
That’s I think that’s a that’s a great analysis. And I’ve never had heard it put like that, I think that’s a very smart way to think about it. We’re breaking down how much energy do we actually need? And you know, where’s that going? And what sources can actually meet that need in a real way? What are what are the big challenges with, with geothermal? Is it like drilling technology? what’s the what’s the big key piece right now that we’re kind of missing that prevents it from from being a mainstream source we can use?

Carlos Araque 6:55
Yeah, it is getting to it, right? So we cannot quite get to geothermal energy at this scale, the power densities that we need, so we know it’s there. There’s zero uncertainty about death, we know that. We know it’s always there. It’s always flowing. Right? So it’s really the question is about getting through it, and having it at the depth that’s required to actually start a geothermal industry at terawatts level geothermal industry, that’s, in my opinion, that’s the only thing you know, in order, in order to get to a new frontier, and open it up, you need to get to the new frontier First, if you want to colonize the moon, you have to get to the moon period. If you want to colonize Mars, you have to get to Mars. If you want to make geothermal toilets, you have to get to it, you have to get to that toilet. So I say that it’s really an only grilling, of course, the minute it happens, the entire, you know, humanity, you know, very smart people will come and start to knock out the problems, because it’s not the only thing you need. But he didn’t say one gaping item that you need for geothermal to actually become anything illegal.

Will Jarvis 8:06
Gotcha. That makes sense. Yeah, you have to get to it and and that that opens the door for us to solve the rest of the challenges.

glenn jarvis 8:12
I am curious.

Will Jarvis 8:14
I know, just a very, very high level about you know, Ultra Deep drilling under there’s a couple different technologies. It’s like rotary drilling, there’s like millimeter wave drilling, impact drilling, you know, one of the challenges with these, what’s the best approach you guys have found so far to solve some of these challenges? I don’t want you to give away anything proprietary, but like, in general terms,

Carlos Araque 8:35
no, no, yeah. Yeah, no glasses. So again, very high level. So So training has been around for a very long time, consider this, you know, 99.999% of the resources of the planet are on the surface or below the surface. You know, that means oil and gas, that means heat, that means water, that means mineral that means everything we as humans, need to run our civilization. So drilling has always been a big important part of human history and human progression. Right? So So mechanical drilling, for many, many reasons, has always been the most developed one, you know, we are we start with, let’s talk about the 20th century. So we started doing rotor driven, we started doing a mechanical rotor drilling to get into oil and gas research. Before that, we were doing it for water, maybe it wasn’t quite as sophisticated. So those are basically systems where you are putting energy from the surface, you know, because we’re not going to go into nobody’s going to go into right, we’re gonna have to move things from the surface. And somehow that energy is going to go over there and crush and grind the rock. And we continue to remove the material normally with a fluid, a mod a liquid, and it comes out of the hole and we could make a deeper hole. So mechanical drilling is very well established, it goes back 1000s of years, you know, but for oil and gas, it’s really developed tremendously over the last 100 so that’s why I’ll come back to why that’s not For geothermal, so variations of mechanical drilling, you have hammer driven, you know, like a percussion hammock, you’re basically rotating on heating the rock at the same time, it’s basically doing two mechanical motions with one. It works really well for hard rock. But again, I’m going to talk about why that’s not the answer for geothermal neither, then you’re getting to know what’s that, you know, you’re drilling with lasers drilling, with waterjets, reading, with projectiles, screaming, with plasma drilling with electric shocks, dealing with millimeter waves dealing with microwaves, all of these things have always been fascinating to humans to do because we’re always looking for a better way to do it. Now let’s talk about very deep and heartbreaking. So you have to do two things to drill deep. And the first one is you have to be able, this is my son incredibly simple, but this is it, you have to get the energy from the surface to the bottom. As simple as that. When you’re rotating, when you’re rotating a pipe from the surface, you know, you’re going to lose energy as you go down. Because that’s pipe bending, rotating, there’s fluid friction, by the time you get to 567 10 kilometres, you’re barely scraping the rock. So that’s going to be a losing proposition as we go deeper and deeper.

Will Jarvis 11:16
So that’s like on one that’s like your car, if you know, if you’ve got a longer car, if you got a real drive car, you’ve got drive train loss with horsepower, it’s the same exact thing. It’s just like a huge scale.

Carlos Araque 11:28
That’s a good analogy, yes, you you’re not gonna be able to get the torque from the motor to the back, we’ll see if those wheels are a kilometre a mile away, right? Not mechanically possible. So So the second one is you this, again, very obvious, you need to get the material out of the hole, period, right? If you’re not getting the material out of the hole, you’re not making a hole. So so how do we do that? Well, we crush it into small pieces, and we float we suspended in a mud and we float as much fast enough to actually carry in the same way that a river carries pills, you know, if it’s, if it’s flowing really fast, if there was more, if it’s not a double sink. So that’s how we do it. Now as we go deeper and deeper and deeper. In, though you have to carry those particles for longer distances, right, and you have a hell of a time trying to pop those months, which are usually then, you know, boy, to those distances, so you’re pumping power starts to grow exponentially with them. And by the time you’re in 10 kilometres Plus, you know, it’s going to be incredibly grim. So that’s just physics, right? Now, what are we doing that’s different, let’s find a really, really, really efficient way to get a lot of energy from the surface to the bottom, or we do that in the same way that you and I are talking about now, a fiber optic laser that’s carrying information, we do that at a much higher power, and not lasers, but masers. Alright, so a lot of people don’t know these but meters are microwave amplification systems are emission of radiation, just like lasers, it’s microwaves. So the millimeter wave travels through the pipe over very long distances very efficiently. So that’s number that’s physical, physical change. Number one, you know, no longer rotating anything, being the energy through the pipe, you’re going to get a mega watt to the bottom, even if it’s 1020 kilometers down. And then because you’re vaporized in the rock, the particles that condensed back are actually labeled kind of catch, they’re very fine. You can there’s so fine that you can actually flow them back with air with nitrogen, or air. Oh, cool. And that, that greatly diminishes. The best example of just opens up bravely. But on top of that you layer are things like cost of rail, you know how expensive it is the doors, consequences of opportunity costs and market dynamics. And we can talk about those too. But from a physical I mean, to me, it always does the specific lecture, do it? Yes. So move forward. If it doesn’t, don’t even bother, right, because you’re not going to get there no matter how you try.

Will Jarvis 14:00
Exactly. It’s a hard kind of technical challenge. Glenn, do you have any questions about that?

glenn jarvis 14:07
So I really like the idea of movement of particles using air instead of water. And I think there’s an angle that people aren’t realizing for this. When you’re talking about really big height differences, potential energy becomes really influential. So one half, mgh mass times gravity times height. So think about this, at the very bottom of the ocean, you have, you know, an Eiffel Tower of water above you, and that’s crushing down on you. That’s what causes the pressure at the bottom of the ocean. Now, when you’re doing drilling, I’m sure that’s the same thing. Imagine if the water weighed a quarter as much, you would have way less pressure. So that makes a lot of sense to me. But it’s interesting that the engineering difference is you need much smaller particles to be able to move them using air instead of water. So, and I guess that’s a viscosity effect, right?

Carlos Araque 15:09
Yeah, yeah. So the physics, your terminal velocity is really the concept here. And it depends on viscosity. But it also depends on the relative density. So the fluid in DNA, I mean, to the common experience, you can understand that if you have, you know, a bunch of marbles, versus a bunch of flour, the same math, and you blow on them, the flour dissipates in the air, and the marbles burly move. So it has to do with the density and, and the ability of the fluid to actually displace and carry the, the particles away, the smaller they are, the easier they are to carry away with less dense fluid, which in this case is air. So that is a constant that’s at work there. Yeah.

glenn jarvis 15:55
Just Just to say how important that is, um, our parents are friends with a patrol, former petroleum engineer. And I told him that I was taking my mechanical engineering license exam soon. And he said, Oh, do you know, the pressure change for a cubic for like, a foot distance in one? Water? And I said, I have no idea. But it’s something he could just tell me off the top of his head, because it’s so important to understand. Yeah, you have to pump mud down, so that you can, you can move the material out of the hole. And so I thought that was very interesting. That he, it was so important to him, he just had it off the top of his head.

Carlos Araque 16:37
Yeah, yeah, it’s fundamental. And there’s other elements like wellbore, control wellbore stability. So it’s not as simple as that. But those are the two physical quantities that I always pull out as a difficult thing that prevent you from doing it. Or as a quick, quick selector for physics, mechanical physics versus versus millimeter wave physics versus other type of physics, right. So we believe these way of doing drilling is fundamentally novel. You know, the, the way the drilling, vaporizing rock with energy is not new people have been doing this with lasers and microwaves for a long time. But piecing together all of the all of the bits of the system, which was the contribution of MIT, MIT was the first to actually come out there and say, Hey, if you combine these, these, these and that together, here’s what you have a system. That’s what I took a look at and say, Whoa, this is very interesting. And I understand really quite well, you know, I work in oil and gas, and we used to develop drilling systems. So I’m not naive to what it takes to drill and this what we’re doing, it’s not easy, but all of a sudden, you have a window that cracks open, where you see a path. And that’s what we pursue, we see a path forward. And our job is to try to make it work because if it works, the world changes.

Will Jarvis 17:53
That’s awesome and and i like i like how you’ve talked about this so far, where you guys have a it’s a novel attack on the problem. And you’ve actually thought through like wow, okay, this is actually a pathway to geothermal becoming an actual energy source. It’s not like we don’t know we’re just gonna try it. It’s like here’s like a very real pathway to get there right to open the door, so to speak. I’m curious, how deep do we go? Generally I this is this is a novice question. But how deep do we go now generally, for petroleum drilling? And how do we need to get to make geothermal work.

Carlos Araque 18:35
So drilling for oil and gas barely takes place below three kilometers, it all happens before that, because most oil and gas more than 90% of oil and gas is actually in sedimentary base sedimentary basin is the beat that we actually leave on is where the aquifers are with oil and gas. These are the waterways, we know that you have the basement or the liter, the hard coconut shell, which is the lithosphere. So you barely you hardly ever need to go there. Now some places you’re actually standing on it. They don’t have sedimentary overburden, you know, places that have hard but 1000 core Grenadiers rock on the surface. So so the the location of the basin varies, but typically oil and gas that never happened, typically does not happen much below three kilometres. There’s exceptions, there’s oil reservoirs that are deeper than that, certainly, and equal, and I’m talking about vertical depth, you know. So you will hear about wells that are thinking kilometers deep, but they’re not really thinking deep. They are two kilometres deep, extending eight kilometers to the side is quite impressive to do as well. But that’s where we are now as humans. we’ve drilled that almost 13 kilometres deep hole in Russia. You know, it took 20 Here’s the drill but that is a world record I believe that is in practice. And in Germany, they drill a 9.1 kilometre cold in bravura Bavaria, which is also quite impressive. Now these things are not these things are science experiments more than anything else. But we can actually do that what we’re trying to do is to make deep drilling in the 345-610-1520, up to 20 kilometers mainstream, it doesn’t mean you need to go 20 kilometres every time, but it means that you can get there if you need to. So let me make two comments about how deep and how hot by because those, those two things tend to go hand in hand. There’s a lot of discussion about that. I believe that hotter geothermal is a better deal. That’s just basically, you know, the more temperature you have, the more energy you have, period. So the hotter your geothermal, the more energy you have to the point that water wells can look like oil wells in terms of the power output, right? And that’s, that’s significant. How hot them to me 300 to 500 degrees centigrade is sweet. It’s a beautiful spot. Why that? Well, because most power plants in the world actually operating that range, we can get to those temperatures, you can see power plants with clean the other machine, imagine the speed of transitioning energy from 30 to clean, if you can actually repower power plants, right? Again, why not more than 500? Because there’s not a lot more below the Beyond 500. Right? Not 600, probably not a lot of return on the investment. Why not be No, because your power density starts to be quite low. Right? So so you’re leaving too much opportunity on the table. So three to 500, we see usually the sweet spot. Now how deep? Well, that’s just a direct result of where you are in the world. If you’re in Iceland, the 300 to 500 just happens to be within the first three to five kilometers, right. So that’s as deep as you drill. If you are in the United States in the West Coast, maybe five, six kilometers, if you are in the eastern side of the United States, like New York Midwest, but you have to go a little bit deep, because it’s not a geothermic, right, and you have to go maybe twice leap. So that’s where the depth comes in. Harder. Geothermal is better geothermal, but deeper. Geothermal is more global, it just means you can do more places. By the time you get to 20 95% of humanity camp have geothermal unlimited geothermal energy. So that’s our specification, we’re developing a drilling system for up to 20, up to 500. Below that also works. That is the opposite certification.

Will Jarvis 22:41
Gotcha. So so once you get there we can we can pretty much serve everyone’s energy needs. For the rest of the time. Pretty much everything is super interesting. is are there, I’m assuming there’s high capital costs up front. But I’m assuming those dissipate pretty quickly once you’ve got the the well drilled. I don’t know if I’m using the right terminology. But once you’ve done the drilling and you get things set up, I’m assuming the costs are much lower than like when where you’ve got to replace like transmissions and turbines and things like that. What does that look like?

Carlos Araque 23:14
Yeah, yeah, so so we we’ve been these, we can get to LC OEE levelized cost of energy in the 10 to $30 per megawatt hour, or one to three cents per kilowatt hour. This is competitive, or even outcompetes, wind and solar in many places. The key to that, the key to that is, is three things that really influence on price, right. And these are really the things you need to focus on. The first one, of course, is drilling. Drilling deep oil, is exponentially more expensive, you know, a weld that’s twice as deep will cost you four to five times more. And well, that’s four times a day will cost you, you know, 10 to 20 times more. So it becomes incredibly, incredibly expensive. The deeper you go, so that’s number one, if you change training costs to vary linearly with that, as opposed to exponential with that you have the tax to a great extent the first cost driver, that’s one that we’re doing to attack that driver is not about drilling about not losing as much time. The recent drill in the cost so much is that you spend all your time drilling the pipe in and out of the hole to replace drill bits rather than drilling. Right. So if you can actually do something to do that, you’re already a huge part of the way. So that’s the first one the second cause driver is a power plant. The power plants are expensive, they’re low risk, you know, people you can build a power plant and you get it built and permanent in 357 years in some cases, but it’s expensive, building power plants expensive. Now, if your power plants they’ve already built there’s 10,000 of them, actually looking for a business case to survive in the next 2030 years as we as we transition out of fossil fuels, they’re just scrambling to see what they do with them. What a beautiful opportunity, if you can just take them and repower them. So that will drive the cost tremendously down a third one has to do with how much heat you can actually put out of the ground, we’re talking about what rock is an insulator is a thermal insulator. So pulling heat out of the box is not easy rock, although a lot of heat, but it doesn’t want to give it to you. So you actually have to increase the contact area with the rock or increased permeability to pull the heat out of the rock. So that’s actually not an expensive operation, not compared to drilling and building the power plant. It seems we’re talking about billions of dollars, but not 10s of dollars. That is just about getting the performance and the contact area. And you’ll hear saying things like enhanced geothermal systems, fracturing, these things are going to be important for the heat out of the rock at the rate that he thinks since to repower civilization.

Will Jarvis 25:59
got it got it that that’s super, super interesting. And I’m curious how, how far off Do you feel you guys are from getting prototypes, like in the ground and using them to drill and getting like, and starting that process?

Carlos Araque 26:17
Yeah, so we let’s see that the efforts started in 2007. The company started in 2018. So all that time between oh seven and 18 was very academic, it was MIT working on the foundational science, very important process, you know, you cannot really short kind of cut right into 2018 to now, we basically ported this technology from the university lab, into our national lab. And we’re operating at 10 times the power levels, you know, so thank you for watching mit 100 kilowatts plus at the National Lab, and that allows them to do deeper holes, faster holes, and explore the drilling process for extensively, but that’s still in the lab, we’re still talking about meters to 10s of meters. Now, to get out of the lab, and to get into the 100 meter, one kilometre plug, you actually have to know the deployable system, you need to package the technology, or field of operation. And that’s what we’re doing now. We are taking all of those components, and ruggedized them for fuel pressure, which is what we’ve done in summer, this one, we know how to do really well. And that process will, we’ll see us getting the first data point in field in the next 18 to 24 months, you know, at that point, you start seeing the first 100 meter magnets is cold, steel far for geothermal, but quite an impressive achievement, for thinking that they’re going to have and that if you fast forward another 18 a 24 to 36 months, you’ll start seeing that seeing that in the in the one kilometre plus range, and it starts now to be viable for geothermal. So by 2024 25, we should see the first extension of an existing borehole in the western side of the United States, where we take it from a bottom hole temperature of say, 250, we see through maybe 500, and show that we can actually do something that today is impossible with conventional technology. So sounds like a lot of time. But actually, that’s pretty fast when it comes to developing these very large industrial systems. So the second, the second part of this decade, should see us in the field, attempting first commercial deployments. And that’s what it looks like, hey, let’s take a power plant in the western Continental Divide. And we power them by creating a geothermal field around it.

Will Jarvis 28:47
Is there is there something special about the western Continental Divide that makes it a good place to set this up?

Carlos Araque 28:53
Yeah. So you have to drill less deep, to get to the temperatures, right? So so it almost NASA admitted, hit the Rockies and go with the heat sources, you know, the surfaces are closer to the surface. So it’s just a way to get to market with less effort and less capital expense. But again, we are designing a system that will be equally useful. Whether you’re in the western divide, or the insolent divide, it doesn’t really matter we want to just about anywhere in the world. But to start you start with the easy stuff first. Just make sense.

Will Jarvis 29:29
I love that I love that that plan. Have you faced any any challenges with I get the sense that a lot of people that invest in technology is solely invest in like apps and internet technology and, you know, phones and things small like this? Have you faced challenges with doing something like in the real world where you know, it’s like it’s a very hard technical challenge. But you’ve got a really good plan, you’ve got a good attack on the problem that you know, it’s, it’s not like you’re just rolling dice. It’s like well, we do these things X, Y, and Z And then this will be successful. But But have you had any challenges, you know, just talking to investors and, and people like that who are used to like you can start a software company for $100,000. But you can’t transform the world’s energy supply 400k. That’s not quite achievable.

Carlos Araque 30:16
You’re bad. Yeah, we’ve raised $23 million to date, right? That’s in the course of three years. So it’s not a lot of money, you know, of software companies a raise a lot faster, a lot more. But it’s not insignificant. So what I see is the world actually has investors willing to do the, and there’s not the majority of them. But those are very special people, those will become incredibly good and powerful partners. So the journey has, what they want to see, of course, is that your team is competent, and can actually get this done. If anybody can get this done. Is this team going to get done? Right? So so that’s one and two, is this worthwhile doing, it’s going to be expensive, and it’s going to take time, and there’s an opportunity cost to everything. If this succeeds, it is going to matter. And of course, when you talk about geothermal, the terawatt level, with energy independence for every nation in the world, of course, is going to be worthwhile. So interestingly enough, I do fundraise all the time I talk to hundreds of investors. And my my, I walk away with a small fraction, but those small fraction of investors willing to fund it are amazing human beings. And the best part is I could possibly wish for.

Will Jarvis 31:33
That’s awesome. That’s also the find the people who really understand like what your what it really means that you have to implement this kind of technology. I’m curious, have you encountered any, any federal regulations or I know, I think actually found geothermal through elide Dorado. He’s super up on it. And he works on NEPA. I don’t know if NEPA applies or there’s other things are the regulations that you have to worry about and think about that are kind of onerous, or you think should change

Carlos Araque 32:03
your bed your bed. Yeah, so we’ve talked to Eli is a dear, dear partner to us. And we have our own our own internal lawyer, slash MBA, who is well versed on that, right in the United States and CCD changes worldwide. But in the United States, what you find is that there is legislation, there’s policy in place, but it’s actually not very much. So tends to get in the way. Now, that originates from the historical way of doing geothermal by when you talk about geothermal, historically, it almost always means if not always, it means hydrothermal systems, which means water is in place, and you drill to get that water. So if water is in place, it means that water is connected to aquifers, I say, get out in Yes, so you got to be careful, right? for good reasons. But it is not worse than oil and gas drilling not worth knowing. That’s really, now the geothermal we’re doing is quite different. You’re done drill for water, your drill, and then you create a reservoir, but geothermal, geothermal, and you’ll get bucketed. in that frame. My opinion is that number one, we need to show it works. Number two, regulation will accommodate it. Because as I said, at the very beginning, I don’t think there’s any other options. And it’s obvious, it’s going to be increasingly obvious as we enter the 2030s and 40s, that wind and solar are actually not transitioning energy at the rate we needed to. So it’s going to clear the way if you if you want to put it really simple. If you treated geothermal, the same way that you treated oil and gas, you’re done. You’re done from a regulatory perspective. Gotcha. Right? That’s It is that simple. If you could bucket geothermal with oil and gas for better or worse, you’re done with the regulation landscape.

glenn jarvis 33:54
Got it? Got it. This uh, this leads to a really good technical question. You said you’re not drilling for water. That means you’re, you’re using a refrigerant is what I’m guessing it or your conductive material. Isn’t isn’t water is what I’m guessing. And it’s not air because air is a really good insulator.

Carlos Araque 34:15
That’s right, we put the water in. We don’t drill for it. But once we’ve failed and touched the rock, we put water in and get it back. Ah,

glenn jarvis 34:23
that’s interesting. Do you have to pump it or or does the change in or does hot water vent rise? Okay.

Carlos Araque 34:32
It That’s right, it does rise right. So there’s people you’ll hear people talk about a thermo siphon effect, which is the way geysers work. So yes, you you it rises because of density difference, but you probably need to pump a little bit because you want to raise the heat rate is what determines economic so the development, which means you probably want to boost it a little bit with pumps, right, but you’re talking about for every 100 megawatts of thermal energy, you’ll probably need Spin 1% or one megawatt with pump, which is very, very low compared to everything else. So your penalty on moving water through the system is relatively low for all of the energy that you’re getting, but water is the working fluid.

glenn jarvis 35:14
So you have a good enough heat exchanger at the bottom to make it make it worthwhile to pump is is that correct?

Carlos Araque 35:25
Yeah, you need a heat exchanger. And that can say, one of many forms. You know, one, the simplest form a simplest, technically, but also the lowest return form is you put multiple systems. So water goes in through the hole outside the hole in an IR section, and it comes to the inside in a pipe that you have in the middle. Right, so people have those concepts that will work, you know, the water will heat up, and you will pull heat from the ground, where you’ll pull heat at the rate of one to five, maybe 10, those temperatures may go once. You can get up there heat exchanger. So how do you do that? Well, you can make a deep and more contact with the rock, that’s one way or you can fracture, whether it’s locally or extensively, you can actually create permeability in the rock and connect several words to that rock matrix. Sometimes you don’t even need to fracture, sometimes the fractures are already in space, you just need to overcome that closing pressure on them and prop them open by but that’s how you create these exchanges. If you do this well. And believe me, entire nations are trying to do this entire nations see the value of these and are trying to do it includes the United States. If when you create a good heat exchanger, you are talking about pulling 50 megawatts of thermal energy for Well, for 1812 or 15 years. Right? Wow. Incredible.

glenn jarvis 37:00
So what type of changes? And what type of delta t? Are you talking about? How, how hot of I guess water? Can you get out at the surface? Because you’re going to lose some temperature to? To as it’s coming up? Well,

Carlos Araque 37:16
yeah. Yeah, the goal, the goal is to, in our case, we want supercritical water at the wellhead, or are closed, we can have it subcritical or slightly above supercritical, but that’s what we want on the X. Why is that? Well, because it’s supercritical phase is very low viscosity. So it flows very easily. You don’t need as much pumping energy to put it through the system. It’s also very high density. So it’s not it’s high, high, it actually carries a lot of energy in its molecules. And three, it actually converts incredibly efficiently to electricity when you run into a turbine. So that’s the Goldilocks if you want to do if you can do that, you have the best possible environment. So what does that mean? It means that down there at the bottom, it has to be more than supercritical, it probably needs to be, you know, 450 500 degrees. That’s what we talk about those temperatures. You also want to avoid face changes on the way in and out, you know, when you allow water to change, face it from liquid to gas, a lot of energy actually goes into the arrangement of the rearrangement of the molecules, and not easily useful work in mind. So you want to keep the pressures relatively high, to keep water from changing face, they will change from liquid to supercritical in the rock, and then to spin in the turbine, which is outside the world. So that’s a difficult situation, you lose heat to on the way up, you gain eat on the way down, you know, but all things considered, you’re talking about 50 megawatts of thermal energy for well, by the time you’re done with something like this.

glenn jarvis 39:09
So if you can get supercritical vapor at the surface, which is really impressive. Can you do cogeneration? Like in an industrial setting, I could see. I mean, steam is a very useful product. Yeah. You can

Carlos Araque 39:25
bad. You can Yes. So whether it’s super critical or not, if you get water hot enough, you can do a lot of useful things with it. Right? So let’s talk about the supercritical. So why would you do with that? Well, you pipe it you don’t vent it, right? You pipe it. It’s always contained. You pipe it to a turbine a supercritical turbine. At that water. It changes space in the turbine from supercritical to saturated baseball. And it produces a lot of energy in that process electric energy because it’s only a turbine. Well then you take the saturated vapor running through a Dry steam turbine a second one, and you take a little bit more energy from that each of those is like 5040 30% efficiency. So you’re kind of squeezing, that serve on the energy, and the end southview, really out of the molecules and converting that to electricity. And as, as the heat as you continue to lose enthalpy, or heat, then you start doing things like, hey, let’s run it through an industrial process by drying pulp. Or let’s run it through a residential or industrial heating system, right. So the beauty of this is that you can take it from a high point, and cascade it down with all of these users in between. And by the time you’re done with it, it’s lukewarm water, and then you pump it back into the hole, get it hot, repeat the cycle, really cool.

glenn jarvis 40:47
And at my university at NC State, we have these natural gas turbines. And we do exactly that we use cogeneration, to get an amazing efficiency of used energy. We, they make steam, which is pumped to the buildings for heat. And I took a an elective where they they couldn’t show us because of COVID. But we walked through like the Act, the increase of thermal efficiency using cogeneration. And I was amazed It was really, I mean, the difference between getting 50% use for electricity, and then Okay, what else do we do with the steam versus, you know, using about 90% of the energy which is released from the fuel from combustion?

Carlos Araque 41:33
So now there’s that now in this case, there’s no fuel. It comes from the ground? Well, there is a few it’s the radioactive decay in the Earth’s crust right out of the fuel, right. But it’s there no matter what, whether we tap into it or not. Right. So yeah, that’s that’s the idea. And chances are that everybody listening to these are the vast majority of people, these entities are getting their energy from a thermal generation plant there is t involved in that cycle, because that’s what we build in the 20th century. So we’re just basically saying, hey, let’s just change the boilers. Right? The problem is not the thermal plan, the probably the boiler burning carbon. Only that leaves everything else in there.

glenn jarvis 42:13
Yeah, we have free boilers, they’re just very far away underground.

Will Jarvis 42:17
It’s just hard to get to. That’s great. Well, Glenn, do you have any more questions? For Carlos here?

glenn jarvis 42:25
Hmm. I’m kind of interested in do you do? Do you put any effort into installation on the way up? Because and or do you have two separate holes, one to put water down and one to bring water up?

Carlos Araque 42:43
You you do you do put insulation, it makes things better, right, you don’t always have to do it. But it makes things better, right? Because the more the less energy you lose the work, the more energy you get to use for your power, or industrial heating uses. Now, Rocky’s a thermal insulator. So by design, you are already insulated quite well, you just can do a little bit better by doing fancy things. If it’s really really deep, you probably do want to put insulation, not all the way on the on the AP portions, because the places where you will lose the most energy is for the difference in temperature between the fluid and the rock is the highest. So you’re close to the surface of the ground could be 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you know, and the water is supercritical. So you will lose a lot of energy if you don’t insulate. So you probably benefit tremendously from insulated the upper portion, it’s out of the proportions, you don’t need to insulate, because the difference in temperature is not that dramatic. But it makes things

glenn jarvis 43:52
Awesome, awesome. This is more of a will light question but overrated or underrated? The idea of having like a low energy society, which is a lot of what the Green Movement has been pushing like it, you know, when I was growing up, they saying you know, make sure you turn your lights off and make sure you turn off your tap and you’re brushing your teeth. Like, I understand, we want to be efficient. But do you think we can just design our societies to be low energy? Or do you think we need really high power capabilities of producing energy for the future?

Carlos Araque 44:31
I think I think we need a lot of energy to prosper. I think it’s just it goes hand in hand with quality of living and prosperity. Yes, we can always do better with efficiency. But the energy that we consume, doesn’t come from the typical places you think of right? A turning off lights, doing things with your chargers or your phones. Now, those things Help that they feel very real, the energy really is embodied in the world around you. So look around you, your clothes, your glasses, your iPhone, your computer, screen, your bed, everything, your floors, the wood, the wall, everything, everything is possible. Because of the amount, the tremendous amount of energy available to literalization, you will make it more energy efficient. It helps. But if you want to drastically reduce energy use, it means all of those things, weight, all of them, all of them. There’s no materials to build. There’s no transportation methods use, there’s no food, right? The food to eat, have you ever stopped, think about what’s in front of you on your plate. It’s not just potatoes, it’s 100 different things that come from all over the world. So I don’t believe that we will see a lone ranger use a as a as a civilization going forward, I think goes hand in hand with prosperity. And it’s just the evolution of the human species, right? If we’re not doing that, if we’re not consuming more energy, and because we’re not prospering it is because Mother Nature hit us in the head, and we had to back off, and we basically defaulted limitations. So that is my view. I very strongly believe in it. I think energy is prosperity, right? If you if you want to use less energy, it’s equal to saying you’re going to be less prosperous period.

Will Jarvis 46:36
Definitely and providing cheap energy that’s, that’s clean, and we can use forever. I mean, this is it’s super important, super important for the future of humanity. Definitely. Well, Carlos, thank you so much for coming on. Where should we send people? Where would you? Where should people check out your work? And if people want to learn about more about geothermal, where should they go?

Carlos Araque 47:00
Yeah, so so our work, a quaife, thought, energy, QUA i. e, that’s the name of the company, dark energy. We have a little bit in there. But that’s the entry point for what we’re doing. And if you want to know more about geothermal, I think a very good references. People 2021. So Jamie, beer, Google that name, J and I, E, B, or B, E, a. r. v. She’s an amazing champion for geothermal. And she’s put these conferences over time where people from all over the world and all backgrounds talk about geothermal. There’s a whole series of weeks of videos on YouTube where you can start watching all aspects, technical regulatory policy, equality, energy concision, right. So I couldn’t find, I couldn’t point you to a little resource at the start of that. Paper. 2021 Jamie beard plays energy specifically for

Will Jarvis 48:06
awesome, I’ll make sure everybody has a link to this in the description. But Carlos, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.

Carlos Araque 48:14
All right. Thank you for having me. Thanks for your curiosity, and I’m trying to elevate the voice of geothermal.

Will Jarvis 48:22
Absolutely. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week with a new episode of narratives.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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