Geothermal for Industrial Process Heat

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Geothermal for industrial process heat (GIPH) involves utilizing geothermal energy to provide heat for various industrial processes, such as drying, evaporation, distillation, sterilization, and washing. This technology offers a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy independence in the industrial sector.

Impact on climate action

Geothermal for Industrial Process Heat within the Geothermal Energy sector elevates climate action by providing sustainable, low-carbon heat for industrial processes. By replacing fossil fuel-based heating systems, this innovation reduces emissions, decreases reliance on non-renewable resources, and promotes a cleaner and more sustainable industrial sector, mitigating climate change impacts.

Underlying
Technology

  • Geothermal Energy Source: Geothermal energy can be sourced from various types of geothermal resources, including hydrothermal reservoirs, EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems), and shallow geothermal energy.
  • Heat Exchangers: Heat exchangers transfer heat from the geothermal fluid to the industrial process or equipment.
  • Process Integration and Optimization: Industrial processes can be optimized to utilize geothermal energy more effectively, reducing overall energy consumption and costs.
  • Direct Use or Binary Cycle Systems: Geothermal energy can be used directly for low- to moderate-temperature processes or converted into electricity using binary cycle power plants for higher-temperature applications.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Geothermal Technologies: Innovations in geothermal technologies, such as EGS and closed-loop geothermal systems, are expanding the potential for geothermal energy utilization in industrial process heat applications.
  • High-Temperature Geothermal Resources: Exploration and development of high-temperature geothermal resources are enabling the use of geothermal energy for a wider range of industrial processes.
  • Process Heat Pumps: Heat pumps can be used to upgrade the temperature of geothermal fluids, making them suitable for higher-temperature industrial processes.
  • Cascaded Utilization of Geothermal Energy: Cascaded systems utilize geothermal fluids at different temperatures for multiple applications, maximizing energy efficiency and resource utilization.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Process Heat Optimization
  • Shallow Geothermal for Industry
  • Binary Cycle for High Heat
  • Geothermal Heat Pump Innovations
  • Cascaded Geothermal Heat
  • High-Temperature Resources
  • Closed-Loop Systems
  • Geothermal in Chemicals
  • Geothermal Heat for Paper Production
  • Geothermal Heat for Food Processing
  • Geothermal Heat for Industrial Sterilization
  • Geothermal Heat in Industrial Washing Processes

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. U.S. Geothermal Inc.:
    • Technology Enhancement: U.S. Geothermal Inc. specializes in the development, operation, and maintenance of geothermal power plants for electricity generation and industrial applications. Their technology involves harnessing heat from the Earth’s core to produce steam, which is then used to drive turbines and generate electricity or provide direct heat for industrial processes.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: U.S. Geothermal Inc. stands out for its focus on utilizing geothermal resources for both electricity generation and industrial process heat. Their expertise in geothermal power plant development and operation enables them to provide reliable and sustainable heat solutions for various industrial applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: U.S. Geothermal Inc. serves industries requiring high-temperature heat for processes such as food and beverage production, chemical manufacturing, and district heating. Their geothermal solutions offer a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, helping industrial facilities reduce carbon emissions and operating costs.
  2. Ormat Technologies:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ormat Technologies is a leading provider of geothermal energy solutions, including geothermal power plants and direct use applications for industrial process heat. Their technology involves extracting heat from geothermal reservoirs through production wells and utilizing it to generate electricity or provide heat for industrial processes through heat exchangers.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Ormat Technologies stands out for its innovative geothermal power plant designs and its expertise in geothermal resource exploration and development. Their integrated approach to geothermal energy production enables them to offer customized solutions for industrial process heat applications, addressing specific customer needs and site conditions.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Ormat Technologies serves a wide range of industries seeking sustainable and reliable heat solutions, including manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. Their geothermal systems are deployed in industrial parks, agricultural facilities, and commercial buildings, providing cost-effective and environmentally friendly heat for various processes.
  3. Enel Green Power:
    • Technology Enhancement: Enel Green Power is a global renewable energy company that develops and operates geothermal power plants for electricity generation and direct use applications. Their technology involves harnessing heat from geothermal reservoirs to produce steam, which is then used to drive turbines for electricity generation or provide heat for industrial processes.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Enel Green Power stands out for its extensive portfolio of geothermal projects worldwide and its commitment to sustainability and innovation. Their geothermal solutions for industrial process heat leverage advanced technologies and best practices to maximize efficiency, reliability, and environmental performance.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Enel Green Power serves industries requiring heat for various processes, including food processing, textile manufacturing, and greenhouse agriculture. Their geothermal projects provide a renewable and stable source of heat, contributing to the competitiveness and sustainability of industrial operations.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Oregon Institute of Technology:
    • Research Focus: Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) is renowned for its expertise in geothermal energy research, particularly in the application of geothermal resources for industrial process heat.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves developing novel geothermal heat exchanger systems, fluid handling technologies, and heat transfer solutions tailored to meet the specific needs of industrial applications. They also explore advanced drilling techniques, reservoir engineering strategies, and thermal modeling approaches to optimize geothermal resource utilization and enhance system performance.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in various industries, including food processing, manufacturing, and chemical production. By leveraging geothermal energy for industrial process heat, Oregon Tech’s research enables companies to reduce energy costs, enhance process efficiency, and minimize carbon emissions, contributing to sustainable industrial practices and economic development.
  2. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts innovative research on Geothermal for Industrial Process Heat, leveraging its expertise in geosciences, reservoir engineering, and energy systems analysis to advance the utilization of geothermal resources for industrial applications.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of integrated geothermal systems, hybrid energy solutions, and smart controls for delivering reliable and cost-effective process heat to industrial facilities. They also explore the integration of geothermal energy with other renewable energy sources, energy storage technologies, and district heating networks to create resilient and low-carbon industrial ecosystems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in heavy industries, such as mining, pulp and paper, and cement production. By harnessing geothermal energy for industrial process heat, Stanford’s research supports the decarbonization of energy-intensive sectors, enhances energy security, and fosters regional economic growth and job creation.
  3. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL is a leading research institution in geothermal energy, focusing on advancing the utilization of geothermal resources for various applications, including industrial process heat.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves developing innovative heat extraction technologies, reservoir management strategies, and geospatial modeling tools to assess and optimize geothermal resource potential for industrial applications. They also conduct techno-economic analysis, market assessments, and policy studies to identify opportunities and barriers for deploying geothermal systems in industrial settings.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in diverse industrial sectors, such as agriculture, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. By promoting the adoption of geothermal energy for industrial process heat, NREL’s research helps industrial stakeholders reduce operating costs, enhance energy resilience, and achieve sustainability goals, ultimately contributing to a more efficient and environmentally friendly industrial sector.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Geothermal energy is already being used for industrial process heat in various industries around the world, including food processing, paper production, and chemical manufacturing. For example, the United States has several geothermal facilities that provide process heat for industrial applications.