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Superhot rock energy provides potential to address both climate change and energy security

Philip Ball's picture
Chief of Geothermal Innovation CATF

Philip Ball is a the Chief of Geothermal Innovation at CATF and Senior Honorary Researcher at the Department of Geography, Geology and the Environment, Keele University. Philip has gained...

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  • Oct 28, 2022
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As COP27 approaches amidst a global energy crisis and world leaders turn their focus to addressing both energy security and climate change, a new report from Clean Air Task Force (CATF) details a potentially groundbreaking tool to manage both: superhot rock energy. 

A form of advanced geothermal energy that uses innovative deep drilling techniques, superhot rock energy has the potential to provide abundant, always available, renewable, cost-competitive, carbon-free energy virtually everywhere on Earth — all with a land-use footprint much smaller than that of other energy sources. 

The report, Superhot Rock Energy: A Vision for Firm, Global Zero-Carbon Energy, details the potential for this new energy source, provides an overview of its current status, and lays out the technical and commercial advances necessary to develop, demonstrate, and commercialize it in the 2030s — charting a potential course to “geothermal everywhere.” 

“Conventional geothermal energy is limited to regions where concentrated heat is near-surface, such as volcanoes or areas where the Earth’s crust is thin,” CATF Chief Geoscientist Dr. Bruce Hill explains. “With advanced drilling methods, superhot rock energy will unlock the inexhaustible heat that exists everywhere beneath our feet. This heat illuminates a path to terawatts of localized clean firm energy that could power the world’s electric grids, supply residential and industrial heat and produce zero-carbon hydrogen for a secure, equitable energy future.” 

The report provides an overview of existing and announced projects in Japan, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, and the U.S., and details the advances needed to reach commercialization – including improvements to thermal reservoir creation, well construction, downhole power and remote sensing tools, and surface power production. It also explores the way superhot rock energy provides an opportunity for the oil and gas sector to pivot to zero-carbon energy production – as much of the expertise required for superhot rock energy overlaps with that required for oil and gas extraction.  

“The beauty of superhot rock energy is that it requires no additional scientific breakthroughs. There are dozens of wells across the globe that have reached superhot conditions and, with the right technical and commercial advances, we could see commercialization in years, not decades,” said Terra Rogers, Program Director, Superhot Rock Energy. “Always available zero-carbon energy isn’t a far-off dream. It’s right in front of us. With this report, we aim to help leaders in industry, finance, government, and advocacy understand that opportunity and seize it.” 

Clean Air Task Force will highlight superhot rock energy’s potential at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh at the Zero-Carbon Future pavilion – with a keynote address from CATF’s Terra Rogers and a panel discussion with experts from across industry, science, and civil society. Find the full agenda of programming here. Learn more about CATF’s work to advance superhot rock energy here.  


Press Contact

Troy Shaheen, Communications Director, U.S., tshaheen@catf.us, +1 845-750-1189

About Clean Air Task Force 

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf.

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Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Oct 31, 2022

Thanks for the post.

What are the obstacles to further development of advanced geothermal power? Regulatory? Transmission infrastructure? Cost?

Philip Ball's picture
Philip Ball on Nov 2, 2022

Good question. Obstacles significantly in regulatory and permitting. This impacts costs.
Transmission can be an issue, but with advanced geothermal less so.
Costs are dropping. So early powerplants are still marginal so current projects target areas with higher energy costs.

Philip Ball's picture
Thank Philip for the Post!
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