Turkey’s ‘Green’ Geothermal Wells Pumps Out As Much Carbon Dioxide As Coal Plants

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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Some of Turkey’s geothermal wells, which are generally considered a green source of energy, actually pumps as much carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere as a coal-fired power plant.

Turkey sits atop a layer of limestone, and when super-heated steam from the Earth’s interior comes into contact with the subterranean rocks, it lets as much CO2 escape into the atmosphere as a coal plant, according to a Bloomberg article Thursday.

“It is clear that in some areas of Turkey, the present concentration of CO2 is quite high,” Adonai Herrera-Martinez, director of energy efficiency and climate change at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), told Bloomberg.

Of the 10 geothermal sites surveyed, nine were found to be putting as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a coal-fired power plant that generated the same amount of power.

Magnus Gehringer, chief executive officer of Consent Energy, notes the Turkish anomaly and says that “Most geothermal power plants are producing very clean energy.” Gehringer goes on to note “Turkey is the only place that I know of with the CO2 problem.”

Turkish utility company, Zorlu Enerji, says the findings are specious.

“I don’t see that this is a major problem,” Ibrahim Sinan Ak, general manager of Zorlu Energy, told Bloomberg. Ak says the amount of CO2 being introduced to the atmosphere by the geothermal wells is much more inline with the CO2 output of a natural gas well. Coal produces roughly 215 pounds of CO2 when used, whereas natural gas produces 117 pounds of CO2, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Another Turkish electric utility company, Gurmat, is looking to either store the newly released CO2 in the ground, or even selling the excess gas to greenhouses so their plants can feed off the gas.

Geothermal is a source of energy that utilizes the radiant heat emanating from the Earth’s core. Rising steam from Earth is separated from water and the steam is then put through a turbine which powers a generator.

The Earth’s radiant heat from its core is estimated by scientists to have as much as 42 million megawatts of renewable power, according to the Geothermal Energy Association. For reference, one terawatt is equal to one million watts and the entire planet used 15 terawatts of energy, according to BBC figures. Meaning geothermal could, potentially, supply Earth with 42 terawatts of power. Enough power to operate everything in any given year.

“Geothermal with high levels of emissions are not going to help you in the long run,” Sean Kidney, Chief Executive Officer of the Climate Bond Initiative said.

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