Progress in mining technology and excavation methods has made subsurface space more readily accessible. This development has opened exciting opportunities for engineering science and technology. Among these are the use of the underground for the production, storage, conversion, transportation and final use of energy- including the ultimate disposal of radioactive waste products from nuclear power plants. Improved methods for the production of primary energy by conventional means such as drilling for petroleum and mining for coal are now supplemented with in situ processes. These mean enhanced recovery and will make currently non accessible sources of fossil fuel available for future exploitation. Oil importing countrie's desire to hedge against sudden supply shortages make huge underground cavities necessary for the storage of petroleum. With respect to natural gas the necessity to cope with large load variations calls for short term storage facilities. Here liquid natural gas in underground caverns may offer attractive solutions both from the economical point of view and when safety aspects are considered. Long term storage of solar energy as well as the tapping of geothermal heat flows implies large underground storage cavities as well as subsurface heat extraction methods. Medium to small thermal nuclear plants may be safely located nearby or even within urban centers to be used for district heating. It has also been suggested that nuclear reactors for power generation should be placed underground both for the sake of public safety and for economical reasons. Using water as an energy vector for fairly long distance transportation of heat in unlined rock tunnels is already a proven technology. This offers economically alternative means for the utilization of waste heat from nuclear power plants. The method applies to district heating and to consumers of low temperature heat such as green houses. For energy intensive industrial applications surface location may be excluded in built up areas. Here the subsurface space may provide unconventional siteing possibilities. The final disposal of radioactive waste presents a serious problem for which subsurface space at present seems to offer the only viable solution. In 1975 the World Energy Conference established a Conservation Commission with representatives from developed as well as developing nations, from centrally planned economies as well as from market economies, and with delegates from international organizations such as United Nations, The World Bank and the Economic Commission for Europe. According to its rather broad and general terms of reference the Conservation Commission should study the long range energy prospects for the world at large as well as Io r various different regions in the world. It was decided that the time horizon should stretch to the year 2020 and that the investigation should cover production potentials of all sorts of primary energy including new, unconventional alternatives, such as solar energy, fusion and geothermal. The Commission should explore the possibilities to conserve energy and improve the efficiency in its usage. The Conservation Commission was also asked to forecast future energy demands in various parts of the world and how these will develop with time.
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Energy Technology In Subsurface Space
Paper presented at the ISRM International Symposium - Rockstore 80, Stockholm, Sweden, June 1980.
Paper Number: ISRM-Rockstore-1980-130
Published: June 23 1980
Gerholm, T.R. "Energy Technology In Subsurface Space." Paper presented at the ISRM International Symposium - Rockstore 80, Stockholm, Sweden, June 1980.
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