In the past couple of weeks of my internship, I have continued to work on understanding the software and developing problems. The current problem I am working on is a geothermal heating problem. My goals for this problem are to better understand the ideal well format for certain parameters and through that, further understand TOUGH as a program. Geothermal heating systems for buildings is one of the aspects of geothermal production that I am very interested in, so I am hoping to better understand the capabilities and possibilities through this problem.
In addition to running simulations, I have been doing some reading and research to guide my work. Geothermal heat pumps are what I have primarily been looking into, as that is the problem I am working on. A geothermal heat pump is much like the heating cycles used in the HVAC systems of many buildings, but instead of exchanging heat with the outside air for cooling and heating, heat is exchanged with rock. Just a few feet under the surface of the Earth, the temperature stays nearly constant at about 55°F year-round. In the summer, this is cool enough to expel heat to for cooling the building, and in the winter, it is warm enough to draw heat from for warming. A geothermal heat pump takes advantage of this by using a buried array of pipelines to pump water in a loop from the house, through the array, then back to the house. These systems can be nearly 5 times as efficient as typical heating and cooling systems and do not emit any greenhouse gases. By doing some research and working through simplified problems, I have been able to better understand what TOUGH is doing and how to set up the problem.
Another reason why I am looking at geothermal heat pumps and interested in well geometry is that the primary goal for the rest of my internship is to simulate how fractures affect geothermal production -- energy or heat. In the next week or so, I will begin working on this problem and will likely be working on it and developing it for the rest of my internship. The first stage of this problem for me will just be setting up a geothermal energy problem without any fractures or discontinuities in the rock. After that, I will restart the problem and introduce fractions to the geometry of the mesh. By altering orientation and length, I will hopefully be able to reach some conclusions on how fractures affect production. Finally, I will introduce new fractures in the middle of simulations to see how this could affect geothermal systems, efficiency, and production. I am very excited to work on this problem and work towards getting some concrete results.
In addition to simulating and researching rocks, I have also been getting some up close and personal experiences with them. My mom is training for a 100k race later this year, so I have been going on some training runs with her, and a lot of the trails we have been running have been very rocky (pictured above). We have summited many jagged peaks and climbed up many granite steps over the past few weeks, and although my legs feel like jello afterward, I have enjoyed every minute of every run. These runs are often a point of inspiration for me and not just because my amazing mother is running her 30th+ ultra, and I hope one day that I can be as strong as her. They also inspire me because the natural world is so incredible, and if we are able to utilize it without exploiting it, we can prosper as a human race and still have the beautiful playgrounds that exist now. I feel extremely lucky to already be working towards this within my internship.