Multi-Fluid Geo-Energy Systems for Bulk and Thermal Energy Storage and Dispatchable Renewable and Low-Carbon Electricity
Abstract:Integrating renewable energy sources into electricity grids requires advances in bulk and thermal energy storage technologies, which are currently expensive and have limited capacity. We present an approach that uses the huge fluid and thermal storage capacity of the subsurface to harvest, store, and dispatch energy from subsurface (geothermal) and surface (solar, nuclear, fossil) thermal resources. CO2 captured from fossil-energy systems and N2 separated from air are injected into permeable formations to store pressure, generate artesian flow of brine, and provide additional working fluids. These enable efficient fluid recirculation, heat extraction, and power conversion, while adding operational flexibility. Our approach can also store and dispatch thermal energy, which can be used to levelize concentrating solar power and mitigate variability of wind and solar power. This may allow low-carbon, base-load power to operate at full capacity, with the stored excess energy being available to addresss diurnal and seasonal mismatches between supply and demand. Concentric rings of horizontal injection and production wells are used to create a hydraulic divide to store pressure, CO2, N2, and thermal energy. Such storage can take excess power from the grid and excess thermal energy, and dispatch that energy when it is demanded. The system is pressurized and/or heated when power supply exceeds demand and depressurized when demand exceeds supply. Supercritical CO2 and N2 function as cushion gases to provide enormous pressure-storage capacity. Injecting CO2 and N2 displaces large quantities of brine, reducing the use of fresh water.
Geologic CO2 storage is a crucial option for reducing CO2 emissions, but valuable uses for CO2 are needed to justify capture costs. The initial "charging" of our system requires permanently isolating large volumes of CO2 from the atmosphere and thus creates a market for its disposal. Our approach is designed for locations where a permeable geologic formation is overlain by an impermeable formation that constrains migration of buoyant CO2 and/or N2, and heated brine. Such geologic conditions exist over nearly half of the contiguous United States.