Fracking for Geothermal Heat Instead of Gas

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AltaRock has figured out how to use fracking to get more heat out of a geothermal well, but work remains before the energy source can dent carbon emissions.

he use of hydraulic fracturing has unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas. Now Alta Rock, a startup based in Seattle, is developing technology that might do the same for geothermal resources, turning a marginal power source into a major source of carbon-free electricity and heat in the United States.

Earlier this year near the Newberry Volcano in Oregon, Alta Rock demonstrated a key part of that technology, a process akin to fracking. Just as fracking involves pumping high-pressure liquid into underground shale formations to unlock natural gas and oil that’s been trapped there, the new technology could unlock heat trapped deep underground. Unlike solar and wind power, that heat would be available around the clock and in all sorts of weather.