DOI: 10.3390/en16165981 ISSN:

Silica Nanoparticle Formation from Supercritical Geothermal Sources

Silje Bordvik, Erling Næss
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Control and Optimization
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Building and Construction

Silica precipitation from high-enthalpy, depressurized supercritical fluids is investigated to determine the best method for accessing the scaling potential as a function of time, position and fluid composition. The most relevant knowledge application is for geothermal sources where the wells are drilled closed to magma and the temperature gradients in the rock are very high. The power potential per well for such a system is large compared to conventional geothermal power production, but several knowledge gaps, among them mineral precipitation from produced fluids, limit commercial use. For the high-enthalpy supercritical well fluid used as a base case in this review, conventional methods for reducing the silica content before it enters a turbine limit the power output. Knowledge of the particle-number density, size and time scales of growth in different depressurization scenarios, along with the silica solubility, kinetics and morphology, is essential to handle deposits and avoid scaling in inconvenient parts of the power plant. Experimental data on the precipitation of silica from highly supersaturated superheated steam are scarce, and it is known that the kinetics of precipitation in steam differ from those of liquid water. We argue that to quantify the number of solids in the depressurized supercritical fluid and superheated steam, dividing the process into three separate but dependable mathematical steps is a reliable approach: (1) the nucleation of nanocolloids, (2) growth by agglomeration, and (3) deposition onto a surface.

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