Geothermal Energy?

Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2005
To: Peter Meyer
From: XXX

I just read Wade Frazier's piece Walking the Minefields of Free Energy, and it reminded me of an experience I had many years ago that opened my eyes. I would like to share my personal encounter with the Petroleum Industry's inhibition (prevention) of cheap alternative energy sources.

Back in 1968 I got a job as a Field Engineer at Dresser Atlas, a division of Dresser Industries (a huge oilfield service holding company). During my nine months of studies and training to run sophisticated downhole oilfield logging equipment, I spent two weeks training at Dresserís Westheimer facilities in Houston, Texas.

The first day at the Westheimer facility, I noticed several renderings of a huge drilling rig hung on the walls of the central hallway of the entry building. It was obvious to me that this rig was perhaps ten times the size of the largest rig I knew of, and it spurred my curiosity.

After several days, I found an engineer in an office in the main building who knew of this huge rig. He informed me that the rig was under construction by Loffland Brothers, Inc. and was to be the first such equipment designed to explore for and to tap the thermal energy of the Earth at depths below ten miles. Wow!

The scientists and engineers involved speculated that once the initial costs of drilling the holes, installing the "steam" piping, special engines and huge turbines was covered or amortized, the cost of electricity would be only a tiny fraction of existing power systems. It occurred to me that the government could pay for this and easily furnish free energy to the citizens of the country, as the cost would be literally too cheap to bill!

He told me that Dresser had been awarded the contracts to build and furnish the hydraulics and control systems for the rig. There would be no crew on the floor, as on contemporary oil rigs, because of the extreme hazard of moving and joining four-foot diameter drill pipe (standard drill pipe is four inches in diameter). The driller would be in a special control room overlooking the floor, and with computers would run the drilling operation from there! This is exciting stuff!!!!

A year or so later, I again visited the Dresser Westheimer facility for more training, and noticed that the renderings of the "geothermal exploration" rig were gone. Curious, I asked one of the resident engineers about it. His expression was somewhere between a grimace and a smile, and he told me that Loffland Brothers (then the largest drilling contracting company in the world) had been bought out, and its assets sold off. This had ended Dresserís interests in the geothermal rig project. Nobody has heard anything about such an endeavor since.

Itís not too difficult to figure out what happened.

Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005
To: Peter Meyer
From: Wade Frazier

Yes, the normal tale. I know of a company that is trying to make/market a device that you can put in a geothermal hole (any place on Earth, drilled deeply enough, can achieve the required temperature), and out comes electricity. I believe it works on the same principle that powers thermocouples. If you heat up the proper configuration of metals, it will generate an electric current. It is generally not considered as efficient as other means of generating electricity, but if you can put it in a crack in the ground that is always hot, the efficiency is not all that important. Like many other technologies of this sort, it is not much past the "bright idea" stage. The problem is not the lack of a potential market, but the issue is multifaceted. Again, the problem that wipes out so many is not the Big Boys and their tricks, but the inertia and complacency in the world, even the world of capitalism. There is a great misconception that there are all these capitalists, waiting to fund new ideas, even ones with lucrative markets beckoning, as in energy. Brian O'Leary discovered how the capitalists play the game long ago:

If you can overcome all the inertia, greed and other obstacles, THEN you meet the Big Boy gatekeepers. That is another reason the Big Boys can operate in the shadows, because the "public" does most of their work for them, and only the rare effort that makes it past the many early hurdles needs to be dealt with. And most are quite amenable to the buyout offer, and the Big Boys don't approach them with "we are going to buy this out and shelve it." They will make it appear that they will try developing it, but they never do. Part of the buyout is that the seller cannot talk about the deal, and most who sell out were in it for the money anyway, so it never bothers them very much that nothing seemed to happen with the technology that they sold. Of that 10,000 that took the $10 million, I'll bet that less than half really understood why they were bought out, mainly because they really did not care why they were bought out, as long as they can count their cash. I wish I had a happier answer, but that is what I have seen.

Walking the Minefields of Free Energy
Serendipity Home Page