The US Air Force is embarking on an innovative undertaking to power a base in Texas using groundbreaking geothermal technology developed by a Canadian startup. This startup, known as Eavor, claims that its revolutionary approach can provide unlimited clean energy sourced directly from the Earth’s core.
The US’ Defence Department has awarded Eavor a contract to leverage its trademarked Eavor-Loop geothermal technology to energise the Joint Base San Antonio facility in Texas.
Eavor is set to spearhead the pilot project, guided by the Air Force Office of Energy Assurance, and has also established a crucial partnership with the US exploration and production company, Chesapeake Energy. This partnership will bring valuable technical and operational expertise to the project.
Founded in 2017, Eavor asserts its capability to generate gigawatts of consistent and dispatchable renewable energy globally, all for a cost of less than $50 per megawatt-hour by the end of the decade, harnessing the Earth’s core.
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Eavor’s approach involves drilling a hole several kilometres deep, reminiscent of practices in the oil and gas industry. Water is injected into this hole, leading to immediate steam generation for powering electricity by generating turbines. This happens because the Earth’s temperature rises by about 30°C for every kilometre of depth, doubling in specific volcanic regions.
What distinguishes Eavor from other geothermal projects is the transformation of this drilled hole into a closed loop system. Cold water is introduced at one end of this loop and it undergoes the transformation into steam as it travels horizontally for kilometres underground. It then returns to the surface via another pipe. This loop not only ensures a continuous energy supply but, remarkably, it is self-powering. The underground heat continually heats the cold water, enabling it to cycle without the need for a pump, a phenomenon known as a thermosiphon.
Eavor, with funding from the Department of Defence, will commence testing the “geothermal resource” near the San Antonio base. Upon completion, Eavor envisions its system fortifying defence infrastructure by delivering clean energy, even in the face of electrical grid disruptions.
Ravi Chaudhary, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations and Environment, underlined the changing landscape of US installations in an era of strategic competition with China. He emphasised the need to bolster installations with redundant energy systems and embrace clean energy sources to reduce reliance on conventional fuel sources. Geothermal resources, he noted, provide enhanced grid resilience and the ability to pre-emptively address threats.
Eavor’s President and CEO, John Redfern, sees the pilot project as a potential model for future bases on both national and international scales. He expressed the privilege of collaborating with the US government and Chesapeake in their shared pursuit of energy resiliency, security and autonomy.
Nick Dell’Osso, President and CEO of Chesapeake Energy, emphasised their company’s unique capabilities in subsurface engineering, regulatory compliance, impact mitigation and geologic resource assessment.
Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Chairman of Eavor’s advisory board, lauded the technology, stating that if it can be delivered cost-effectively, it comes remarkably close to being the “holy grail” of energy solutions.
In addition to the Eavor partnership, the Department of Defence has also awarded a contract to another company, Zanskar Geothermal & Minerals, for its AI-enabled platform to identify geothermal resources at two other air bases. This signifies a broader commitment to leveraging innovative energy solutions within the Defence Department’s infrastructure.