AltaRock's Quake-Inducing Geothermal Energy Search

AltaRock is a small company looking for geothermal energy sources just north of San Francisco. With venture funding from firms like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Google, it is looking to drill deep holes into the earth to extract its heat.

However, the method being used caused a significant earthquake the last time it was used in Basel, Switzerland, by Markus O. Häring, a former oilman.

Mr. Häring knew that by its very nature, the technique created earthquakes because it requires injecting water at great pressure down drilled holes to fracture the deep bedrock. The opening of each fracture is, literally, a tiny earthquake in which subterranean stresses rip apart a weak vein, crack or fault in the rock. The high-pressure water can be thought of loosely as a lubricant that makes it easier for those forces to slide the earth along the weak points, creating a web or network of fractures.

Mr. Häring planned to use that network as the ultimate teapot, circulating water through the fractures and hoping it emerged as steam. But what surprised him that afternoon was the intensity of the quakes because advocates of the method believe they can pull off a delicate balancing act, tearing the rock without creating larger earthquakes.

Analysis of the data showed that he had indeed caused a 3.4 Richter scale earthquake. Since it was more shallow than natural quakes, it was accompanied by an "air shock" roaring noise. The project was immediately shut down.

You may wonder why this method will be used north of San Francisco, in an area laced with fault lines. Swarms of small quakes have already been set off by a less geologically invasive set of energy projects there.

Apparently, AltaRock did not mention the Basel event to the federal Bureau of Land Management in seeking a permit.

Fans of the LucasArts game Fracture may recall weaponry like Tectonic Grenades that create "terrain deformation" as a part of game play.


(Terrain deformation rising)

I also recall project RUMOKO from the 1976 novella My Name is Legion by Roger Zelazny. In the story, a company attempts to create artificial islands in the ocean by detonating nuclear explosives on the sea floor where magama lay close to the surface.

We got far enough away, and the signal was given. Over the port bow, I saw the old man stand up. He was old and gray and wore a wide brimmed hat. He stood, slouched and fell on his face.

The glow continued and a dark form appeared. RUMOKO. It was the cone. An artificially created island.
(Read more about Zelazny's RUMOKO)

Via New York Times and BldgBlog.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/25/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Engineering ")

3D Printed Artificial Muscles Are Stronger Than Yours
Bots don't need to work out.

Crazyflie Drone Swarm Technology
'...Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.

L16 Revolutionary Optics Spells End For Ordinary DSLRs?
Time for Esper Photo Analysis, Blade Runner fans.

MIT Tunes Ions For Frictionless Surface - Superlubricity!
'My telelubricator here neutralizes the interatomic bonds the surface of any solid...' - L. Sprague de Camp, 1940.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

effie Automated Ironing Appliance
'Household Automata received an urgent task to develop production units of бытовые тканевые разглаживатели - a household fabric smoother.'

BabyX AI Real Enough For You
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man? I'm showing a voice this instant... I can show a face the same way.'

We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.'

Pegasus, Nvidia Supercomputer For Autonomous Driving
'...a 2045 convertible with a Hennis-Carleton positronic motor and an Armat chassis.'

Loihi Chip Mimics Human Brain's Neurons And Synapses
'You can hook a Thorsen tube into a control circuit... and the tube will "remember" what was done and can direct the operation...'

Self-Assembling Bacteria Build A Pressure Sensor
Nature is a master of fabricating structured materials consisting of living and non-living components.

3D Printed Artificial Muscles Are Stronger Than Yours
Bots don't need to work out.

Fog Computing (AKA Edge Computing) Ad Hoc Networks
'The tiny devices chirped their impulse codes at one another...'

Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'

Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'

HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."

DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'

A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?

Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'

Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'

PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.