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Exploitation of ‘unconventional’ geothermal systems in Mexico

Mexican ambassador visits final conference of the European-Mexican geothermal energy cooperation GEMex at GFZ.

Mexican ambassador visits final conference of the European-Mexican geothermal energy cooperation GEMex at GFZ

On February 18 and 19, the final conference of the European-Mexican cooperation GEMex (Cooperation in Geothermal energy research Europe-Mexico for development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems and Superhot Geothermal Systems) took place at the GFZ in the presence of the Mexican Ambassador to Germany Rogelio Granguillhome Morfin. GEMex is a research cooperation between a European consortium of 24 partners (funded by the Horizon 2020 - Research and Innovation Framework Programme of the EU) and a Mexican consortium of 8 Mexican partners (CONACyT). In 72 conference contributions, researchers in Potsdam presented newly developed approaches to the exploration, development and use of so-called unconventional geothermal systems. About 120 experts took part in the conference.

At five locations in Mexico there are currently ‘conventional’ geothermal systems with an installed capacity of around one gigawatt. Since the region has a geology that is particularly favourable for geothermal energy, the use of these systems could be significantly expanded if ‘unconventional’ systems such as ‘Enhanced Geothermal Systems’ (EGS) and ‘Superhot Geothermal Systems’ (SHGS) were also developed.

EGSs are rock systems with a high energy content and little or no water content. These geothermal resources are located in the region of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt at a depth of about two to four kilometres and have temperatures of more than 200 degrees Celsius, which are necessary for electricity generation. SHGSs have exceptionally high reservoir temperatures above 350 degrees Celsius, usually in the form of steam. The aim of the GEMex project, coordinated by the GFZ Geoenergy Section, is to further improve the understanding of these complex geothermal systems and to promote their use in the region.

"GEMex is the largest research collaboration between Mexico and the EU to date. Its strength lies in bringing together the expertise of 32 partners," says project leader David Bruhn. "We combine the entire spectrum of research methods, including structural geology, volcanology, various geophysical methods, hydrogeology and reservoir modeling."

In addition, the effects on the environment and public acceptance will be investigated. The sites Los Humeros (SHGS) and Acoculco (EGS) were selected as study areas. The high importance of the project is reflected in the funding of almost ten million euros by the European Commission within the framework of Horizon 2020, while the Mexican Ministry of Energy is also contributing ten million euros.

Luis C.A. Gutiérrez-Negrín, Mexican project partner: "The results of GEMex enhance the chances of exploration of a couple of geothermal areas in Mexico. There has been no other comparable joint effort to combine the Mexican knowhow on the development and exploitation of conventional geothermal resources with the European expertise."

One result of the project are 'best practice' recommendations for the exploration and development of ‘unconventional’ geothermal systems, which can also be transferred to other sites. All results will be presented at the World Geothermal Energy Congress 2020 in Iceland in a total of 38 papers. (ph)

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