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Singapore studying geothermal energy as potential source for power generation

Singapore studying geothermal energy as potential source for power generation
One of the study sites is Sembawang Hot Spring Park, where researchers are seeking to obtain temperature data and improve estimations of Singapore’s geothermal resource potential. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Energy from underground heat could help to power cooling systems and water desalination processes in future, as Singapore studies the potential of harnessing geothermal energy.

Exploratory studies will be carried out in the northern and eastern parts of Singapore, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) announced on Tuesday (Oct 26).

These areas have been identified based on higher surface temperature measurements, it added.

One of the study sites is Sembawang Hot Spring Park, where researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), research platform TUM CREATE and Surbana Jurong are seeking to obtain temperature data and improve estimations of Singapore’s geothermal resource potential.

“Previous studies have given us simulated estimations, and our current study aims to improve these estimations by obtaining temperature data at locations we think to have higher temperatures, possibly near the Sembawang hot spring,” said Associate Professor Alessandro Romagnoli, who leads the study.

To do this, the team will use a combination of computer models and seismic surveys to study Singapore’s geological features.

Preliminary findings from the exploratory studies will be established by the end of next year, said EMA.

Speaking at the opening of the Singapore-International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) High-Level Forum, Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng said advancements in technologies, coupled with the declining costs, have enabled policymakers and industry leaders to significantly advance the role of renewables in the global energy systems.

"In Singapore, recent developments in geothermal technology, such as advanced geothermal systems which harness heat from deep dry rock, may allow Singapore to harness geothermal energy at greater depths, with minimal impact to environment and safety," said Dr Tan, who is also Manpower Minister.

Singapore is also keen to accelerate the development and deployment of emerging low-carbon alternatives, such as hydrogen and carbon storage to support the energy transition, he added. 

What is geothermal energy?

A renewable energy source, geothermal energy is derived from heat within the sub-surface of the earth, which is carried to the surface via water or steam.

Depending on its characteristics, geothermal energy can be used for heating and cooling purposes, or be harnessed to generate clean electricity.

If a large amount of heat can be extracted, this can be harnessed to generate clean electricity.

In Singapore, a geothermal resource with temperature of more than 140 degrees Celsius can be used to produce electricity, according to Associate Professor Alessandro Romagnoli from the Nanyang Technological University School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Geothermal energy covers a significant share of electricity demand in countries like New Zealand, Kenya and the Philippines.

While installed capacity has increased over the years, challenges in deploying geothermal energy such as geographical limitations as well as higher per-unit capital costs remain.

As a result, geothermal energy today accounts for less than 1 per cent of globally installed renewable energy capacity.

Data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that geothermal energy made up just 0.5 per cent of total renewable energy capacity.

In comparison, hydropower and wind accounted for 43 per cent and 26 per cent of global installed renewable energy capacity respectively last year.

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FURTHER STUDIES TO DETERMINE SCALABILITY

If the studies yield positive results, EMA said further research will be conducted to determine the viability and scalability of deploying geothermal systems in Singapore.

“If found to be feasible, geothermal energy could serve as a new and additional source of indigenous clean energy besides solar for power generation in Singapore,” said EMA.

EMA added that if Singapore adopts geothermal energy for power generation in future, it would be one of the first countries to deploy next-generation geothermal systems in a densely-populated.

“More importantly, it would support Singapore’s effort to lower its power sector’s carbon emissions, and help meet its climate change targets,” said EMA.

While the country has taken great strides to improve energy efficiency and ramp up solar deployment over the past few years, the power sector still accounts for around 40 per cent of total carbon emissions.

The country has pledged to halve its 2030 peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a view to achieve net zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of the century.

On Monday, Singapore said it intends to import up to four gigawatts (GW) of low-carbon electricity by 2035, making up about 30 per cent of its electricity supply in that year.

It will be calling for proposals to outline the requirements for electricity imports, including how they should be from low-carbon sources, from November.

A total of S$55 million was also awarded to fund 12 projects on low-carbon energy technology solutions.

Source: CNA/vl(gs)

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