Author Archive for Prof D Chandrasekharam


The 12th IGC by the Saudi Geological Survey

The 12th International Geological Conference was just concluded at Jeddah. Organised by the Saudi Geological Survey, the conference was held for 4 days, from 4th Feb till 7th Feb in the Jeddah Hilton. The Minister for Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and other dignitaries from SGS, attended the opening ceremony. An exhibition was organised by SGS. International participation was low and the delegates mostly came from Egypt. The exhibition was very informative and showed the variety of economic mineral wealth of Saudi Arabia. Shield area is going to be the future for the country. Only abstract titles are available for the conference. This is one of the very few conferences that has not printed abstract volume and done away with the closing ceremony. The participants were ignorant of the content of the material presented at the conference. It was more as less a casual gathering. No seriousness was attached to the scientific content of the conference. The keynote speakers did their best and considerable information on the shield and surrounding regions was thrown open to the delegates. Many participants missed the keynote addresses due to confusion related to organization structure. The keynote speakers include Willam Bosworth (Shallow state of stress of the Arabian Plate and its boundaries: Synthesis and Uncertainties) , Reiner Haus (Minerals for renewable applications), Marco Pagani (A global collection of openly accessible hazard models: the GEM mosaic), D Chandrasekharam (Evolution of geothermal systems around the Red Sea: an Over view) and Karoly Nemeth (From geocities to geopark: volcanic geoheritage as a driving force for geoeducation and geotourism on volcanic regions). The conference rooms were miles apart and made the movement of the delegates difficult. In spite of organization flaws, the conference opened up huge opportunities for the country to be food secured and generate plenty of freshwater and reduce GHGs.


Desalination: Future for food and water security

Abu Dhabi launched two RO facilities with each capable of generating nearly 460000 m3/day of fresh water from the sea. By the end of 2021 the country will have the above quantity of water for the population. At present Abu Dhabi is generating about 4.5 million m3 /d of fresh water from the sea from 10 distillation plants. RO is relatively cheaper than MED or MFD methods. In he case of MED or MFD the energy consumed is about 12 billion units of electricity to generate a cubic meter of fresh water. It comes with a heavy price tag….CO2 emissions……..about 13 million tonnes. The cost is also expensive. For example, vacuum membrane technique costs US$ 0.53 per cubic meter of freshwater generated while it is US$ 1.22 per cubic meter. The most interesting information is: the desalinated water will be stored in an aquifer 80 m deep in Liwa desert. Future demand and fear of starvation due to water is making countries to innovate such methods…..”necessity is the mother of invention” is absolutely correct.
There is no doubt that future weapon for countries is going to be “water”. Countries with good water resources, or capable of securing water will be the most strongest. With water comes food security. “Water water every where but not a drop to drink” saying will be a history soon. Seas are going to be the future sources of water for the humankind. Countries will now make a policy to protect their seafront!!. This is true especially with MENA and GCC countries. Israel realized this way back and has the power now to sell arms!!
2 to 7 billion people in future will face water scarcity says the UN. The water industries are now geared up to work on technologies to generate desalinated water at affordable cost. But still what the industries can not control is the GHG emissions from the energy source used for the process. But, as man evolves so does the technologies. Geothermal energy is coming handy to beat water starvation. Unit cost of electricity generated through geothermal energy sources in future will be the lowest….less than 3 to 2 US$ cents and the desalinated water costs will be around 1.6 US$ for cubic meter.

For more information read: CHAPTER 5: Desalination of Seawater Using Geothermal Energy for Food and Water Security: Arab and Sub- Saharan Countries: in Renewable Energy Powered Desalination Handbook 2018


Djibouti made to starve??

When groundwater or surface water are not available there is meaning in devising improved methods for irrigation and planning for supply of safe drinking water for rural population. But the financial institutions insists on such methods to lift the poverty levels of countries in the Middle east. Certain aid agencies go one step ahead and “to train the local population to dig wells” is one of the objective of a financial institution. This refers to Djibouti, the country that receives < 300 mm of rain in a year and the rural population are below the poverty line and are starving. The Djibouti town is well taken care of since the elite live in the city. This country imports 100% energy and food. There is no agriculture since there is no water. The cultivated area is about 1250 ha while the total area of the country is 23,200 km2!!. One can count the number of farmers engaged in agriculture.....1700!! All international aid agencies are interested in pouring money for improved water supply, lying pipe line to rural areas for safe drinking water, digging new wells etc etc. A futile exercise in an area where there is no water. It is like attempting to grow paddy in a desert!!It is difficult to understand whether such policies and plans are international or ignorance. Science has an answer but it is not a part of this policy or plan. Earth has given free energy at the surface...what else one needs. East and west, the country is sizzling with geothermal that is free and waiting to be utilized. Had the aid amount over the last decade been utilized in developing geothermal energy at Lake Asal and Lake Abhe, by now Djibouti could have been a country with flourishing economy with food and energy security with water for every one. It is difficult to understand why such easy solutions are ignored by the policy and makers and financial institutions. If the country is provided with plenty of fresh water, desalinated from the sea, the poverty, hunger and health are solved for ever. Large area can be brought under cultivation, job can be created and children can be saved from starvation. Scientist have provided the data on the amount of energy (electricity) that can be generated from these sites is published in top rated scientific journals. All such data and solutions are gathering dust. It is high time the aid institutions wake up and look in to the data and channelize the funds in a meaningful way rather than training locals on “how to dig wells”. It is a question of mindset, sincerity and determination of the policy makers. It is not only Djibouti...look at other countries around the Red Sea that has natural heat waiting to be harnessed. These countries are experiencing famine year after year. When technology can send man to the moon, discover new solar system, fly pilot free flights, make missiles.....can’t the same technology come out with a solution to tap the energy beneath everyone’s feet? If this cannot be done, then it is a shame on it not true? Whether it is IMF, ADBs, UNICEF, UN, JICA, EU .....all of them should focus on developing resources that can solve the problems for ever in such countries.


China: The super giant in power projects!!

China has become a global energy giant, over taking all other countries including USA!! The China Energy Investment Corp. recently entered West Virginia with a whooping US$ 84 billion MoU …..shale gas, power and other chemical projects are in its kitty now. China Energy is nascent formed by the merger of coal and utilities. This company has a work force of 32600 people…four times bigger than US coal based power company. Who is great. It is not leaving any energy source. On the geothermal front… the entire Himalayan Geothermal belt is being explored and a new power plant at Langju, just near Puga across the China boarder started operating recently. Hydropower is being developed in a big way over the Brahmaputra. India lost Puga for ever. The Indian army could have saved millions of barrels oil and the glaciers could have been saved had India harnessed the geothermal power at Puga and Chummathang. India slept over this project for years in spite of the fact the potential of this site was well projected to the army as well as to the ministry and the local governments. This site would have supplied uninterrupted pollution free electricity ( with baseload supply) to the entire northern belt and saved the Himalayan glaciers. The silk road is going to be supported largely by geothermal across the Himalayas. The International Geothermal Association held one of its Board meetings in Puga. Top scientists from Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Russia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia visited this site during the Board Meeting and evaluated its potential. They held meetings with the local power minister who inaugurated the Board meet. India is gifted with water and power but priorities are misplaced. For the last two decade or more power and water situations remained the same…..floods every year, electricity shortage and droughts. Indians have resilience year after year that keeps the country going……but how long? Diverting the rivers to save water and enhancing irrigation, control floods, increase food export to GCC countries under VWT scheme…….there are several things Indians are capable of executing:- Provided the right people are placed at the right place!. China is able to divert rivers by boring tunnel at 5000 m elevation! We are still wondering how to link rivers(!) while countries are looking at sea beds to connect cities. Decades ago, India was over China in developmental activities. Now China power company has become global…….executing large infrastructure projects and creating employment. There, one man passes the policy/law and the rest execute. In future, not oil or gas but water is going to dictate the power of a country. Now geothermal energy is becoming a source to provide food security to countries. Countries around the Red Sea are looking at desalinated water using geothermal energy as the main source to support food production. Besides saving oil and gas and Carbon dioxide, the countries can drastically reduce food imports, move away from VWT and be food secured. Perhaps China, surplus in water resources, may find it much easier to import soya from Brazil and save its water bank! All the GCC countries are going to be highly water stressed in future as all the aquifers in GCC countries are trans-boundary in nature. There is a competitor for agriculture that requires water……power!!. Power sector compete with agricultural sector for water.
According to a recent news release by the World Resource Institute, power plants, dependent on water for cooling, will incur power loss. The shortage of water could be for various factors like droughts, poor monsoon, demand for water > than recharge etc.
Based on the data from the CEA from 2013 to 2016, the power loss due to water shortage is of the order of 14 terawatt-hours (power plants > 600 MWe generation capacity). This amount is more or less equal to the yearly power requirement of Sri Lanka!! In 2016, 18 thermal power plants were shut down due to water shortage causing loss of power generation mentioned above. Why thermoelectric plants, the hydro electric power plants too incur greater loss due to water shortage. For example the Parli thermal power plant, as per the CEA data, was shut down for 89 days in 2016 that has an installed capacity of 1380 MWe (generating revenue of the order of US$ 3.1 billion). Apparently, there is a nexus between water-energy and food. Food is going to dictate the countries’ supremacy and not oil. For ample food to grow, water is essential and since the fresh waters resources are limited, cheap energy plays a role of generating fresh water from the sea. This relationship is strong. All the countries have sufficient energy from the Earth and it is upto us to utilize it to secure our daily bread. Wars for water can be mitigated !!!!


Geothermal for food security to Yemen

All the countries around the Red Sea have large geothermal resources that is lying untapped for unknown reasons. Millions of dollars are spent to fight poverty and hunger but the financial institutions have no idea about how to eliminate this issue permanently…..or they do it deliberately so that these countries always depend on them!!. One such country is Yemen Republic that is on the verge of facing famine.
The geographic area occupied by Yemen is about 528000 km2 and only 7 % of this land area is cultivable. 10% of this land is being used for qat cultivation. Greater than 52000 wells draw groundwater to support irrigated farming including qat cultivation. Qat being a “rural economy crop”, qat cultivation is given more importance than other crops like wheat, oats, vegetables and fruits. Due to depletion in groundwater qat cultivation and cultivation of other food products are declining and the country is heavily in to virtual water trade (VWT). Qat cultivation consumes 60 million m3 of groundwater. Qat contributes 25% of the country’s GDP, providing about 16% of employment and hence it is difficult to curb cultivation of this crop by the government. It is a high altitude crop and grows in areas with rainfall between 500-1000 mm or grows with irrigation. Qat cultivated area has grown from 8 000 ha in 1970 to > than 90 000 ha currently with production going up by 600 million bundles in 1995 from 35 million bundles in 1970. The farmers have great profit from qat sales that ranges from $ 2 billion/y retail value from $ 640 million at farm gate value. However, the country has an option to protect food and water security through desalination of Red Sea water using its huge geothermal energy resource. This will help the country to provide food and water to the growing population for the next few decades.

The Ministry of Water and Environment is preparing a feasibility study for a brackish groundwater desalination plant. If feasible, the planned 5 million L/day plant will help alleviate the city’s water shortage problem including cultivation.

The country should utilize its untapped geothermal energy to support generation of fresh water from the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden there by provide continuous water and energy to support qat as well as other food crops and reduce dependence on VWT and imports. The Damt geothermal province is akin to Jizan geothermal province and has the potential to generate > than 134 x 106 kWh of electricity. There are other geothermal province in Yemen yet to be exploited.
Desalination cost estimates using different energy sources indicate that generate one m3 of desalinated water from the Red Sea using conventional energy source costs ~ 3 US$, while using solar pv, the cost is 9 US$ and with geothermal source it is 1.61 US$

Currently the UN agriculture agency and the World Bank is launching a new initiative to avert famine in Yemen and sanctioned US$ 36 million to bail out the country from the oncoming tragedy. One of the goals of the aid it to provide longterm sustainable agricultural support.
A part of the aid, for sure, will help them to fill their hunger but for sustainable growth such short sighted policy funds may not give them sustainable growth. What Yemen needs now is water and energy. The funding agencies should revise their policies and spend such amount in developing the country’s geothermal resources. Once the country is able to support its own electricity, then automatically other issues will be resolved in due course. As detailed above, the funding agencies, if, are truly interested in uplifting the poverty of Yemen population, their priorities should change. It is not clear whether they draft such policies deliberately or not is not clear. According to the funding agencies, the grant, will boost productivity, income and nutrition, especially in those most famine-hit regions in the country. Providing food supply over a long period of time will not make the population free from hunger. Developing the country’s energy sources like geothermal should be the priority. The country will be independent and be able to stand on its own feet. This should be the policy of the funding agencies and the new SG of UN will realize this.


Press release by IRENA

A press release by IRENA states that ‘Working Together to Promote Geothermal Energy Towards a Sustainable Energy Future’ is the theme of the global geothermal alliance (GGA) meeting that is being organized in Florence on 11 Sept 2017. This is one of the largest meeting where more than 25 countries will meet to discuss barriers  that have obstructed the development and deployment of geothermal energy. Currently geothermal accounts for 0.3 % globally installed renewable energy capacity (only electricity). Geothermal energy is one of the lowest cost (unit cost) and most reliable energy world can have. Geothermal energy is the only energy source that can support base load electricity supply. Both government and private parties will participate in this global meet to unravel the > 200 GWe potential. To honor the commitment to the COP21 agreementm, the Italian government determined to invest and promote geothermal energy to bring down CO2 emissions states the Minister for Environment, Italy.

“My country is engaged, and will continue to pursue objectives within the framework of our National Energy Policy and Strategies based on our broad and remarkable renewable energy knowledge,” said the Minister.

Speaking at the press conference IRENA Director general said “ Globally, geothermal energy remains largely untapped despite its huge potential for low-carbon power generation and direct use in heating and cooling. “Right now we may only be harvesting six per cent of proven geothermal energy potential, meaning the sector represents a significant opportunity to decarbonise the energy system and drive economic growth in the 90 countries with proven resources”. The Aims of GGA is to achieve 500 % increase in installed capacity for power generation and 200 % increase in direct application by 2030.

The Alliance aims to enhance multilateral efforts towards a more favourable environment to achieve a 500 per cent increase in global installed capacity for geothermal power generation and a 200 per cent increase in geothermal heating by 2030. Geothermal energy is energy in the form of heat within the sub-surface of the Earth that is carried up to the surface as water and/or steam. Depending on its characteristics, geothermal energy can be used to generate clean electricity, or in direct use applications such as heating, cooling, the agribusiness and in industrial applications, to name a few. The environmental footprint of geothermal energy is negligible and its predictability and reliability make it a significant contributor to decarbonisation of the global energy system, while increasing security of supply, and boosting local economic development.


The pres rerelease did not mention about the EGS potential that will, when harnessed, will surpass the demand for the next two decades globally. The EGS technology is now in advanced stage and is going to jump to higher plant form soon. Besides electricity and direct application, this energy will support food production and make countries free from VWT, especially those oil rich countries in the Gulf. Currently the countries around the Red Sea and the Sub Saharan countries heavily depend on imported food and investing in other countries for meeting local food demand. This means basically the country’s food security lies outside the country boundary!! This is the most dangerous policy any government can promote and support as future will be fought for water and food by the countries, especially those countries mentioned above.


India has tremendous potential in hydrothermal and EGS energy…..but sleeping over the potential while neighboring countries are making best use of this energy to support their trade and security with all the European countries. India is obsessed with solar power, with out knowing where it is leading. Roof top, solar thermal are no doubt good options to be supported by solar pv. Solar should be stand-alone systems, without any subsidies supported by financial institutions.


Why loose power when solution is in hand

According to a recent news release by the World Resource Institute, power plants dependent on water for cooling will incur power loss. The shortage of water could be for various factors like droughts, poor monsoon, demand for water > than recharge etc.

Based on the data from the CEA from 2013 to 2016, the power loss due to water shortage is of the order of 14 terawatt-hours (power plants > 600 MWe generation capacity). This amount is more or less equal to the yearly power requirement by Sri Lanka!! In 2016, according to the report, 18 thermal power plants were shut down due to water shortage causing loss of power generation mentioned above. Why thermoelectric plants, the hydro electric power plants incur greater loss due to water shortage. For example the Parli thermal power  plant, as per the CEA data, was shut down for 89 days in 2016 that has an installed capacity of 1380 MWe (generating revenue of the order of US$ 3.1 billion).  There are many such plants listed by the World Resources Institute. Now the question is…….can such shutdowns be avoided? In the world it happens only in India (developed countries) that receives maximum amount of rain fall compared to many cities around the globe. On one side we have floods throwing several thousand cubic meters of water into the sea and the other extreme is drought (due to poor rain fall). The answer is yes………when India can launch rockets carrying several satellites can’t the same talent be utilized to divert water from north to south? When tunnels are built below the sea for road and railways, in the modern technological world is it impossible?? When we think of “hyperloop” transport systems is it not possible to construct tunnels and water ways to divert the water across the country? While we are fortunate to get our yearly quota of rain, just think of the oil rich countries like the Gulf countries on one side and poverty ridden countries like Eritrea for example. Instead of looking for water on the Moon, as reported by a recent news release by Brown University, more effort should be made on generating affordable desalinated water from the sea. When Israel can be food secured in spite of lack of rivers and poor rain fall,  other developed countries should focus on generating fresh water from the sea using energy…..that is free from carbon. This will solve to a large extent power shortages either from thermoelectric plants and hydro power plants. Hydro electric power plants will always generate less power year after year unless the capacity of the dam is maintained. Though it is an expensive affair, it is cheaper than loosing power. In the modern political systems of the world, who wants to loose power!!

Geothermal and gravity power will provide the ultimate solution to reduce GHG emissions and secure the countries with food and water.


EGS is going to replace nuclear in Switzerland by 2050…….!!!!!

Consequent to the Fukushima event of 2011, The Swiss chambers adopted a new strategy to phase out nuclear energy with geothermal. 58 % of the population voted for geothermal in May 2017. The Swiss President who hold the Energy Ministry brought out Energy Strategy 2050, that intends to decommission the five nuclear reactors in the country. A bold step and the faith the people have on EGS. Besides geothermal, the strategy also includes other sources of renewables like hydro, solar, wind and biomass. By 2050 the Strategy targets developing 4400 GWh/y from geothermal. The Strategy has announced FiT (feed in tariff) for hydrothermal and ES as shown below. CHF is more or less equal to US$.







– Deep exploration can be supported by up to 60 percent of eligible costs. The most important of these eligible costs include access roads and well pads, drilling, tests and stimulation of exploration wells.- Geothermal energy guarantee for electricity projects increases from 50 to 60 percent. If a well is not successful, the Confederation can reimburse up to 60 percent of the eligible costs, among them: preparation, construction and dismantling of the drilling site, drilling costs including pipes, cementation and completion for all planned production and injection wells, and well logs and tests.The guarantee and the exploration support scheme are both funded via a maximum 0.1 Rappen (about the same in US Cent) per kWh from voltage grid surcharge. The annual Swiss electricity consumption is about 60 TWh and results in a fund of about 60 Million CHF/y. Geothermal energy is now deemed of national interest in the country, which will also accelerate the planning and permitting of new geothermal projects.

Swiss people will have clean and low cost energy for the next several generations. India too has several EGS sites. Will the country know what is EGS??


Desalination is the future for food security ……….for GCC and Sub Saharan countries

Like Egypt other countries have to look to Red Sea for food security.  Nile is no more a property of Egypt. 18 countries share its water !!! Read this article. Low carbon energy

source that can supply electricity is the future solution for Egypt’s problems. Other countries will follow!!



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