A research study is looking at the potential use of geothermal energy — the heat produced inside the earth — as a new source of clean and renewable energy for the UAE.
The project, which is being undertaken by researchers at UAE University (UAEU), has studied geological sites in both Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah, examining the hot water spring reservoirs and analysing their temperatures and sizes.
“This project started in January of this year with the goal of understanding the possibility of using geothermal energy in the UAE, and so we wanted to study the geothermal areas, gathering as much data as possible,” explained Dr Hakim Saibi, associate professor of geophysics at UAEU, and one of the researchers involved with the project.
“As part of our research, geothermal sites in Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah were visited, where we carried out different types of surveys on the areas. These surveys included a magnetic survey, which is the measurement of the magnetic field in the area — this allows us to understand the geological structure of the site,” he added.
“The second thing we did was to collect and sample the water in these places, the water was analysed in the laboratories, giving us important information about their chemistry and also helped us to understand their temperatures,” he said.
The information collected from the site visits revealed that the water temperatures located in the groundwater reservoirs reached around 120 degrees Celsius, and the reservoirs were 3km deep.
According to Dr Saibi, the findings did point to the possibility of tapping geothermal energy in the UAE. “The potential for using geothermal energy is good. Based on our findings and the data gathered at the sites, we can produce around 1,000 megawatts of electricity using the geothermal energies from these areas,” he said.
“We can use this energy to power hundreds of homes, and it is done without producing any CO2 emissions, so it is a very clean and reliable source of energy,” he added.
“Producing geothermal energy is also very cost effective, there will be some costs at the beginning when getting the technology in place and building the power plant on the site for example but, after that, it doesn’t really cost much to produce,” he said.
Dr Saibi said that the next stage of the project will see all their findings published in a respected scientific journal, with the published results providing crucial data for any organisation that is looking to possibly build a power plant on the sites in the near future.
“This is a very big and important project, it is very beneficial for the UAE to have sources of renewable energy, whether it is solar, wind or, in this case, having geothermal energy,” he said.
“Even if we are not going to start using geothermal energy tomorrow, just having this research and data available is helpful, because it means we can start to work on getting to the point where we do finally use geothermal energy,” he added.