Author Archive for Prof D Chandrasekharam


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!!



New release…makes an interesting reading

BOOK COVER Continue reading ‘New release…makes an interesting reading’


Grid connectivity

“A reliable and resilient electric system is essential to protecting public health and fostering economic growth and job creation. ……………………………. Consumers utilize heating, air conditioning, computers, and appliances with few disruptions. Nonetheless, there are significant changes occurring within the electric system that could profoundly affect the economy and even national security, and as such, these changes require further study and investigation. Baseload power is necessary to a well functioning electric grid. We are blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric, all of which provide affordable baseload power and contribute to a stable, reliable, and resilient grid. Over the last few years, however, grid experts have expressed concerns about the erosion of critical baseload resources………………………….”  This is the statement of US DOE Secretary Perry.

A robust electrical grid network is very essential for a healthy economy.  Take for example the geothermal belt of the Himalayas………………the Chinese have a vision. They are putting this carbon free energy source to better use by establishing a very good grid network to support the Silk Route. This idea was conceived about three years ago at a workshop conducted in Wuhan. Top scientists from USGS, British Geological Survey, Turkey, Afghanistan, Taiwan , India and China of course attended the workshop by invitation…… fact all the countries falling close to the silk route were invited to presented their views on how to power the Silk Road and gave a road map.

After the conference people disbursed…..there was a period of quiescence. Now the road is taking shape and perhaps the entire road will be powered by geothermal.  India too has “sufficient geothermal on our side” to uplift the entire Leh Community and protect the pristine Himalayan environment and ofcurse our army bases in Chumathang. Due to lakh of grid connectivity hundreds of Orphan Tibet children suffer from biting cold (-25 °C).  It does not take much time to lay a grid from the geothermal sites to the villages around Leh. The major beneficiary will be the army, who spends millions litres of diesel ( with low efficiency) to keep their system going…….diesel air lifted from the neaby airports. Indian should have an excellent command over the entire NE part of Ladakh. We allow Chinese to dump their solar panels at incredibly low cost and boast generating solar power at Rs 3/kWh……..of course with subsidy.


“ What’s not to like? Plenty. Solar power has many hidden subsidies. Its true cost is far higher than for thermal power…………………..At an investor conference last year, one solar entrepreneur estimated the true cost of solar power (sans implicit and explicit subsidies) at Rs. 6/ unit without storage and Rs 8/unit with storage. A captive coal based power station working flat out yields power at just Rs. 2.50/unit, far cheaper than solar power. Commercial thermal power plants have quoted Rs. 1.77 to 4/unit……Solar costs are falling fast……….Speed is not a virtue. Rising solar targets repeatedly looks green and good, but has hidden, potentially disastrous costs…” reports “SWAMINOMICS” on 16 April 2017. We have > 70% population without grid connected electricity. It is not difficult to get this work done…it is question of mind set. When intentions are above politics, things will work.




Future water…are countries under stresses ?

“The photovoltaic industry has been low margin for so many periods in its history that the concept of a margin healthy enough to profitably run an entire company is anathema to it. Focus on the benefits of multi gigawatt economies of scale on margins belies the lengths that PV manufacturers have undergone to salvage margin; lengths that include sourcing lower cost and thus lower quality backsheets, EVA, glass, junction boxes and polysilicon”…………….states a news item in “Renewable Energy News 11 April 2017”. Fortunately or unfortunately the cost is controlled by China’s photovoltaic industry and not individual contrives promoting solar. Cost of land, water, grid and back up systems costs dictates the unit cost of power. Country’s socio economic status will be health only when subsidies are removed.


It is not so in the case of geothermal. This energy source can afford to supply energy at affordable cost without subsidy. In the current context, where countries are starving for fresh water, geothermal sourced desalination plants will provide water for the asking at any point of time in the future for agricultural, domestic and other sectors in any country and this is so important in GCC and MENA countries. GCC and Sub-Saharan countries are flushing with geothermal energy sources associated with active volcanic activity. Kenya is already generating 1228 million units of electricity and another 27800 units are awaiting to be developed. Similarly Ethiopia (788 million units) Eritrea ( 891 million units) and Djibouti (900 million units) have large energy resource under development. The focus for these countries should be to develop carbon low energy to generate fresh water from Red Sea and the Mediterranean sea. Both steam and electricity from geothermal sources are best suited to operate MED, MFD, MVC and RO desalination technologies, that are energy intensive and currently operated through fossil fuels and emitting large volumes of CO2. The desalinated water that can be generated sourcing geothermal energy varies from 148 million cubic metres ( R Yemen)  to 1302 million cubic metres (Kenya). Small countries like Eritrea and Djibouti that can generate similar volumes  may not be in a position to utilize the entire desalinated water. Such countries can supply fresh water to neighbouring countries. These developing and below poverty countries can come out of VWT and secure food and water security and increase the GDP. All the riparian countries located on the upper catchment area of the Nile are currently not utilizing their legitimate quantity of blue water due to the prevailing political situation. This will be history soon as due to growing population, there is a tremendous pressure on the Govt. to increase the utility of the Nile forcing  the countries like Egypt to fall under severe water stressed status. Out of all the riparian countries located along the Nile, Egypt is on the top of development and socio economic status. By 2025 when its population crosses 106 million, Egypt cannot bank on its conventionally sources desalination plants neither the currently solar pv operated RO plants can meet the demand., Besides hydrothermal, Egypt has enormous EGS sources and by 2025 this technology will mature fully and the granites can sources about 7 billion units that to the desalination plants with low carbon emissions. Then the country will be in a position to bail out of water stressed situation and provide about 1000 m3/y of per capita fresh water to its population. Saudi Arabia has realized the importance of geothermal now…..after a series of publications on the resources potential along the western shield. In a recent statement the energy minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that by 2025 geothermal will be developed. This is good and health sigh to reduce use of oil when other energy sources along the coast is available. Since the Red Sea is highly saline (TDS 50000 ppm) high energy intensive desalination technology is needed to generate comfortable volumes of desalinated water.  Desalinated water with solar source costs anywhere between 4.8 to 11 US$/1000L while geothermal source will bring down the cost by one third….a good example is the Milos island…..selling 1000L of desalinated water at 1.6 US$. Cost can be further reduced ………………….need political will and mind set…………countries need not patent such ideas.


Geofluids…..special issue

Call for papers Geofluids 2017


more about Desalination

About 884 million people in the world have no access to drinking water and many countries are either importing large quantities of food or supporting agricultural produce outside the country there by throwing food security outside the country. By 2025 this number will touch 4 billion. Can not imagine countries without water!! This is especially so with Gulf and MENA countries. As on today nearly 70 million tones worth of food grains are imported by these countries and the number is growing with exponential growth of population. Apparently this increase is related to lack of fresh water, groundwater as well as surface water in these countries. The rainfall is scanty and thus there is no source to recharge the aquifers. Many aquifers, to enhance the problem further, are trans-boundary in nature ad hence there is always war for water. As it has been said, the future war will be fought for water and not for power or territory. For example, the Saq Ram sandstone aquifer shared between Saudi Arabia and Jordan; the Umm er Raduma Eocene limestone aquifer shared between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. These are formation-waters and once the aquifer is emptied, no more water can be withdrawn from it. Here is a rat race!!! Wo will draw excess water to support their needs……not only for domestic but for irrigation purpose? According to the world Commission on Water, the global demand for fresh water will in crease by 50% over the next 30 years from the present consumption. Several Gulf and MENA countries have put in place desalination plants to meet fresh water demand for domestic and irrigation purposes. But utilizing fossil fuel based energy for desalination is not a viable and economic solution. Fresh water cost generated by desalination is very expensive and normal person can not afford to purchase it. Further, this process emits large CO2 that is detrimental to the world. In fact countries are fighting for stabilizing CO2 in the atmosphere. A viable technology has to be developed to generate fresh water from the ses through desalination using energy that is cost effective and renewable and green. The Gulf and MENA countries have huge untapped geothermal energy source(s) that can be utilized for desalination. Countries like, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Eritrea, Kuwait, Libya, Egypt, Oman, Bahrain can use geothermal energy for desalination process there by controlling CO2 emissions from the desalination plants as well as from the power plants. Thus the future of the above countries depends on the availability of fresh water.
Agriculture, for example contributes 3% to the GDP of these countries, and because of lack of water, food imports in these countries have increased from 30 million tonnes in 2000 to greater than 70 million tonnes in 2010 and is poised to cross 100 million tonnes by 2020. For example, due to severe water scarcity, Saudi Arabia has increased its food imports from 1.9 in 2012 to 3.02 million in 2014. The annual per-capita water supply has drastically reduced from 3300 cubic metres in 1960 to less than 500 cubic metres. Not only for the Gulf and MENA countries, the entire world has to depend on sea for water. Geothermal energy is cost effective and by using this energy the cost of desalinated water could be brought down to < 3 cents / m3. Now that EGS is maturing with advancement made in drilling technology (plasma drilling will be the future technology) all the countries can be self-sufficient in food and water. Countries have to open and come out of its oil-gas glass house and start implementing new desalination process using geothermal energy. ( for more information read “ Desalination of Seawater using Geothermal Energy to Meet Future Fresh Water Demand of Saudi Arabia in Water Resources Management in J. Water Resources Management. At present 33 desalination plants are in operation in Saudi Arabia and more than this umber is operating in the Gulf countries around the Persian Gulf. With the government subsidy the cost of desalinated water is 3 US cents/ cubic metre which is far less than the average cost levied by the countries in the world which is 6 US$/cubic meter. If the government subsidy is removed, then the cost will be double the world average. Besides domestic and agricultural sectors, energy sector too needs fresh water. For example the world energy sector in 2010 consumed 583 billion cubic metres of water. According to the report published by the International Energy Agency, this consumption is expected to rise by 85% in 2030. Apparently there will be water crowding in the world and political conflicts since many aquifers and surface water bodies in the Gulf and MENA countries are trans-boundary in nature. The high water consumers in the power sector are fossil fuel based power plants and nuclear powered plants. Further water is required to irrigate crops to support biofuels based power plants. Solar photo voltaic (solar pv) panels too need water for cleaning and to maintain efficiency, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia. Desalination plants in many countries are working on solar based power, at 20% efficiency (maximum) and generating about 5000 cubic meter / day of fresh water. Water requirement for geothermal power plants are low and these power plants can generate fresh water as well. In Gulf countries, the most important support system that water resources can give to the country is in agricultural sector. The country needs water for agricultural activities, especially for growing staple food wheat and barley. Average per-capita consumption of wheat bread is 241 g per day. Saudi Arabia’s wheat consumption in MY 2013-2014 was 3.25 million metric tones. Due to shortage of fresh water for irrigation, the Govt. has banned wheat cultivation now and the imports have gone up to over 3 million metric tones from 1.9 million metric tones. This is disastrous to any country that puts its food security outside its boundary. Water stressed situation can be mitigated through developing its geothermal. Saudi Arabia, in fact all the countries around the Red Sea have copious geothermal resources, that are under developed, due to the active tectonic and magmatic activities of the Red Sea. The Harrats along the Arabian shield covered several active drainage systems and thus the paleochannels along the cost have supported high temperature hydrothermal systems with surface temperatures exceeding 90 °C with heat flow values exceeding 95 mW/m2. The bottom hole temperatures recorded in certain oil wells along the Red Sea coast and Suez Gulf varies from 120 to 260 °C. The Red Sea is currently is an active spreading ridge. It has been reported that the estimated power generating capacity of the hydrothermal systems associated with the Harrats is of the order of 173 x 106 kWh/ 1km2 of Harrat. Assuming that about 10 % of energy is extractable from the 90,000 km2 of the Harrats, an amount of 200 x 106 kWh of electric power can be generated from the hydrothermal systems associated with the Harrats. Besides the hydrothermal systems, the Arabian shield region hosts large volumes of high heat generating granites and the estimated power that can be generated from these granites using EGS technology is about 120 x 106 terawatt hour. This geothermal heat can be utilized for membrane distillation process (MD) while other desalination methods like multi effect distillation (MED), multi stage flash. Electro dialysis reversal (EDR) and vapour compression can utilize power generated from the geothermal resources along the Red Sea. The process involves circulation of hot water (temperature of about 60 °C) through a heat exchanger to heat seawater and decrease pressure to vaporise the water in a multi stage chamber. To generate large volume of desalinated water, the heated hot water is circulated to heat several chambers containing seawater through a method known as MED-MSF. In the case of geothermal systems where the temperatures are > 150 °C, power can be generated through binary technology that can be utilized by the desalination companies. About 80m3/h of fresh water can be generated through this process and 470 kwh of electricity can also be cogenerated. The advantage is here is to use multiple desalination methods to using geothermal power and the electricity cogenerated from this process. The estimated cost of desalinated water is about 1.5 euro/m3.