Author Archive for Prof D Chandrasekharam


Climate change and the Gulf and Sub-Saharan countries. : Discussions at CoP 24 at Poland and other countries.

Along side the main CoP 24 conference in Poland, several side discussions are being held to focus current issues related to reduction of CO2 emissions. One such discussion being held in Washington, DC is related to the preparedness of Arab countries to tackle climate change. All the gulf countries and sub-Saharan countries will be the most affected regions of the world due to climate change and weather vagaries. Among the most affected are countries like Djibouti and  Eritrea and oil rich countries are no better than these countries.  These countries are vulnerable to food and water security in the near future due to climate change. For Eritrea agriculture contributes 12 % to the country’s GDP. Soil erosion is the greatest problem for the country that is decreasing the cultivable land for agriculture. Several dams have been constructed to store surface water and several bore holes have been drilled for irrigation. Due to poor rainfall such exercises have proved futile and the country is heavily dependent on food imports. Although estimated groundwater potential is about 500 x 106 m3,  the demand is much higher than this estimate. It is around 2540 x 106 m3. Oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia has increased its wheat imports from 1.9 to 3.1 million tonne. But fresh water is needed for the live stock and Date farms (agriculture contributes 3% to the GDP!).. The country heavily depends on desalination using fossil fuels. Not economical at all. The desalinated water is costly but for the Govt. subsidy is sold at 0.03 US$/m3. While the average global cost is 6 US$ / m3.

The side discussions/conferences may be attended by top official with strong academic tags but the ground reality is to use renewable energy for desalination. So the entire focus of the Gulf countries (including sub Saharan countries) to find out methods to increase the production of desalinated water using renewable energy (with low carbon foot print) and reduce dependency on food imports. This what should be preached at such conferences by the educated elite.  Countries with geothermal energy resources should augment the process of development of this energy source for desalination there by securing country’s food and water security.


Geothermal energy projects showing upward swing (IEA)


According to the recent report (2018) published by the International Energy Agency, geothermal energy capacity is set to grow by 28% amounting to 17 GWe by the year 2023. More and more countries are exploiting their untapped sources to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and control the use of fossil based electricity. China alone has shown the largest growth of 2 GW in the last couple of years. Indonesia followed by Kenya are the leaders in expanding their geothermal base, increasing to the tune of 30%. Although pre-development risks are still the barrier for development, such barriers can be overcome by skillful planning and good data interpretation. In addition the drilling cost are showing downward trend due to technological improvement. In future, with the advent of plasma drilling and development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems, growth of this industry will see exponential rise. Low CO2 emissions, baseload power, high efficiency and small lad foot print are some of the factors that is attracting the geothermal sector in several developing countries. Soon this sector will add additional 20% amounting to 900 MW. The main additions are from Kenya ( 180 MW) and Indonesia. Philippines and Turkey will be add another 70 MW. Countries like Japan, England, China, France and Germany have initiated EGS projects that are at different stages of development.  Direct application projects are showing a surge due to technological development in ground source heat pumps.


Saskatchewan geothermal project…it is hapenning

What a marvellous achievement by DEEP, the Canadian Geothermal Developer. The entire work went unnoticed. 3 Km deep drilling and extracting heat usig submersible pumps to generate initially 5 MWe and after the testing will be escalated to 10 MWe. Saskatchewan- is the location where this project is coming up. DEEP is planning to drill upto 3.5Km in 25 days. The temperatures are expected to be around 126 C. A total of 5 wells are planned —–three production and two injection wells.

According a news release a news release from the company says the plant would generate renewable and zero-emission power. It would also offset 27,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by producing five megawatts of electricity, which is the equivalent of taking about 7,400 cars off the roads annually. The oil and gas drilling industry discovered this site and the resource.
. According to the CEO of DEEP this power will out beat solar and wind since operating and maintenance cost will be less than  the other renewable sources. No one expected that Canada will be geothermally powered. Sask-Power signed a power purchase agreement in 2017 which would enable the Crown corporation to buy power from the plant, and help reduce emissions from by 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.


IPCC Oct 2018 and 1.5 C scenario.

Ambitious mitigation actions to limit global warming to 1.5 C, according to October 2019 IPCC report is to focus on  ‘climate-resilient development pathways’ which aim to meet the goals of sustainable development, including climate adaptation and mitigation, poverty eradication and reducing inequalities”” The report further highlights that “ there is no single answer to the question of whether it is feasible to limit warming to 1.5 C and adapt to the consequences”. Thus there are so many highly sounding jargon phrases and words engulf the entire report.

To add another jargon to this is the “energy-water-food nexus”. Unlike others, here there is no hidden meaning, political web, intergovernmental feuds and best governance. Countries are going to face acute food and water crisis soon and the most affected are the Gulf countries and Sub-Saharan countries. Those countries rich in oil resources burn is extensively to generate fresh water to sustain the growing demand for food and those oil impoverished countries depend extensively on VWT (Virtual Water Trade) to support food demand. These two processes going to influence the global warming to a large extent. IPCC should focus on this crucial aspect and impress on the governments to find out methods to increase fresh water production without using fossil fuels. Apart from power production, generation of freshwater using fossil fuels releases enormous amount of carbon dioxide. Now it becomes a full circle… generate freshwater renewables are the first and the best option but all renewables are not alike. The world is obsessed with solar pv. Certainly this is one of the options where ever it is cost effective and does not occupy productive land resources. There is an equal and most suitable option that is not being discussed or highlighted in most of the reports. Like Sun Earth has enormous amount of heat that is lying untapped. When one talks about geothermal people think of hydrothermal resources and forget the amount of energy one can extract from granites. Land requirement, performance, efficiency and supply of base-load electricity supply…..these factors inherent in EGS can out beat any of the renewables. No lithium batteries, no storage systems, no subsidies and no supporting ancillary industries needed for EGS. Now with plasma drilling technology maturing, tapping Earth’s heat is easy and is available at every ones back-yard. Governments, if serious about reducing CO2 emissions to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 C, then a concentrated effort to promote renewables is a must. Even though this is not the mandate of IPCC yet a separate chapter or  a session with CoP can be held as a side conference to emphasise and thrust the development of EGS in all the countries. There have been IPCC report and reports and CoPs. All the efforts however could not stop the global warming…it is rising day by day and year by year and affecting the poverty ridden countries. Will such meeting and reports continue to fill the libraries and offices or will there be concrete steps to really control the temperature phenomena is poorly understood.


Geothermal and lithium

Argentina, Australia, China and Chile are the four countries that have large lithium reserves ranging from 2 million to 7.5 million metric tons. Other countries do have but not much exploration work has been carried out.  It is expected that demand for lithium carbonate equivalent will grow beyond 1.8 million tonnes from the current 200 00 tonnes. Apart from lithium bearing minerals, focus should be on geothermal resources. Water rock interaction between the circulating fluids and rocks extract sizable quantities of lithium that can be extracted. Besides this large mine-waste contain easily extractable lithium that has not attracted the attention of the investors. If the renewable industry has to grow then this metals has to come from renewable energy source itself…geothermal. Identification of sources, extraction methods are the future research areas that institutes and industries should follow. A large number of geothermal provinces do have lithium in extractable quantitates and even if the metal is in traces still there are procedures to extract it in a economical way. This may bring down the cost. Look for my article that will soon appear in the journals.


7.5 M Sulawesi earthquake and Tsunami


What boron isotopes mean? New insight into Indian thermal springs


Eritrea: Geothermal for food security: Just released

Journal Arabian Geosciences  Sept 2018


Water resources management using geothermal energy: Eritrea


Dornadula Chandrasekharam1*, Aref Lashin2, Nassir Al Arifi3, Abdulaziz Al-Bassam4 and Varun Chandrasekhar5

1 Professor, India Institute of Technology Hyderabad, Hyderabad 502285, India; Visiting Professor, King Saud University, Riyadh; 2 Professor, Department of Petroleum and Gas Engineering, King Saud University, Riyadh; 3Professor, Department of Geology and Geophysics, College of Science, King Saudi University, Riyadh;4 Professor, Department of Geology, King Saud University, Riyadh, 5 GeoSyndicate Power Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, India



Eritrea is a country with rich gold, silver and basemetal deposits and geothermal energy resources associated with all the five volcanoes located within the Danakil graben. Due to low rain fall the country has to depend on imported food and food imports have crossed > 46 % in the recent years. Although the cultivable land is about 16000 km2 only 5030 km2  land is being cultivated due to insufficient water resources. The per capita water requirement is projected to fall below 1300 m3/y from the present 1470 m3/y. The country’s GDP has fallen from 1.3% in 2013 to 0.3% in 2015. Each geothermal province associated with the active volcanoes can support to generate 445 million m3 of desalinated water from the Red Sea.  Providing basic needs like water and energy will boost the country’s economy and lift the socio-economic status of 6 million people in the country.


Keywords: Groundwater, water security, food security, geothermal resources, desalination,  Alid, Danakil


  1. Introduction

 Land degradation occurs due to lack of rainfall and groundwater resources. Depending on the frequency of rainfall, the region eventually may become a desert, exerting severe stress on the economy of the country (MoA, 2002). One such country along the western coast of the Red Sea is Eritrea. Eritrea hosts some of the world’s richest VMS deposits (volcanogenic massive sulphide) and shear hosted mineral and metal deposits (Barrie, et al., 2007, Yager, 2015) and has huge geothermal energy potential that are not explored and exploited. As a result the country’s economic growth has fallen from 1.3% in 2013 to 0.3% in 2015 (Magidu and Okumu, 2016).  Issues related to environment, poverty and unemployment are hampering the inclusive growth of the country. Greater than 80 % of the population depend on agriculture for livelihood. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA, 2002) has initiated a national action programme to mitigate land degradation issues. The main crux of the issue that the ministry or the government of Eritrea or the financial aid banks such as ADB, in general, should realise is the country’s water and energy security.



Djibouti …the country with surplus geothermal energy

At least Eritrea has some food security…but take the case of Djibouti! Except for the Djibouti town, the rural Djibouti is struck with poverty. I happened to travel from Djibouti to (from the coast of the Red Sea) to Lake Abhe (bordering Ethiopia) cutting across the desert. When ever our vehicle stopped, locals, mainly children, rush to the vehicle not for food but for water! This is the state of a country rich in geothermal energy. Financial Aid Institutions are more focused in supplying food, cloths and water instead of finding a more permanent solution, which is widely visible, to uplift the poverty stricken rural population. Both east and western Djibouti have abundant geothermal energy waiting to be exploited. If one (if you are a geologist) assess the potential of geothermal energy, one wonders why this energy is not tapped at all!. Djibouti lies well with in the AFAR triangle with a very high geothermal gradient and heat flow like in Iceland. What else one needs! Iceland made a half hearted attempt to develop these resources and left it undeveloped. Other countries have keen interest in occupying Djibouti for other reasons but not interested in uplifting the status of the country. Let us analyze what energy resources the country has and how it can be utilized. The geothermal systems in Djibouti comprises of boiling springs, thermal pools, fumaroles and travertine deposits. The surface temperature of the thermal waters is around 99 C. The thermal waters are channelled through series of NW-SE trending parallel extensional faults that were developed during the rifting regime. Magneto-Telluric geophysical survey around L. Asal indicates high temperature zones at about 6 km depth indicating the presence of 1200 C geothermal at this depth. Like Lake Asal, the temperature of the thermal springs in Lake Abhe varies from 84 to 98 C.

Based on exploratory bore well data, it is proposed to build 100 MWe (891 x 106 kWh) power plant at Lake Asal geothermal site by 2020 and several 1 MWe (9 x 106 kWh) power plants around Lake Abhe and Hanle geothermal sites. This amount of electricity is surplus to Djibouti considering its population. If funds are available, why 2020, within 11 months the entire project around Lake Asal can be executed!! This energy can be utilized for desalination of seawater and fresh water can be provided to the population to support their agricultural and domestic needs and make the country food secured and free the country from VWT. The unit cost of desalinated water was around US$ 0.5/m3 (when the cost of fossil fuels was ~10 US$/ton . The energy required for generating 1000 m3/d of freshwater from the sea is about 11 x 106 MWh). The cost of desalinated water through geothermal energy sources is 1.6 US$ / m3 which is far less than the desalinated water generated through any other energy source. Billions of dollars given as aid for poverty alleviation can be utilized to develop geothermal power plants at Lake Asal and Lake Abhe to provide permanent food security to the country.


Increasing access to reliable and affordable electricity in energy deficit regions of the world

That was the workshop held in Feb 2018 in Italy. What is surprising is, none of the participants had any clue about the geothermal energy that is being utilized in Sub-Saharan countries like Kenya. Not only Kenya for that matter, other countries like Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen, Egypt and Ethiopia, all of them fall within the focus of this workshop, do have considerable geothermal resources. Geothermal energy resources in these countries are best suited for off-grid electrification solution. Surprisingly even World Bank African programme authority never spoke about this source. Tendaho, Aluto Langano in Ethiopia, Alid volcanic province in Eritrea, Lake Asal and Lake Abhe in Djibouti and the entire East African Rift Valley extending from Afar to Tanzania have excellent geothermal energy sources. For example, Kenya has already exploring and exploiting geothermal energy at Olkaria and Menangai snd Suswa are ready to take off soon. Once Kenya goes full swing on its geothermal expansion programme, the entire East Africa Can come under 100% electrification grid. Here there is no risk is involved in generating power, no carbon dioxide emissions, no biomass burning, land requirement is small, no back power batteries are required, don’t need wind velocities to turn the blades. This is what an official from the African Development Bank highlighted….” yet many African countries still struggle to surmount the energy poverty which affects the lives of hundreds of millions. While many successful schemes have provided specific energy services, such as solar’. I don’t know why the entire world is engulfed in solar and have no time to think any think other than solar. No doubt solar is good but it is not the only world!! When cost effective solutions are showcased in the East African Countries, financial and research institutes turn a blind eye to the realities. Is it a deliberate method to support ancillary industries (supporting solar like batteries, cadmium metals for the batteries, raw material for manufacturing the acids, other small components to put the battery system in place) in Europe to sustain its livelihood? If solar is not supported, the fear is that these industries will collapse and shatter the GDP of these countries.

At least one person from ADB is able to voice his unbiased opinion “Africa has significant raw energy resources both in renewables and fossil fuels, yet many African countries still struggle to surmount the energy poverty which affects the lives of hundreds of millions…………………………. a solar lamp does not resolve cooking needs, nor can a TV provide medicines. “ Absolutely right. Too much of anything is not good!! Solar cannot provide affordable desalinated water to develop agriculture; solar can not provide 27 x 4 electricity capable of supplying baseload power. What the African countries need is water….freshwater to sustain their lives. Freshwater that is accessible at cheaper cost is what they need. To grow their food and do away with imported food. Virtual water trade is not good for any country. If solar is the ultimate solution for everything, why then the GCC countries are not promoting solar for desalination, which they require very badly? These countries still depend on fossil fuel supported desalination plant to meet freshwater demand

A workshop or a conference of this type should in fact debate on all possible renewable energy sources. Selection of team is very important in such forum….to drive the right message to the population.