By Dan Oancea - Twitter

Basel, northern Switzerland:

December 9, 2006 – An earthquake measuring 3.4 on Richter scale hit just before 6 p.m. People ran for shelter. Emergency services received over 1,000 calls from worried citizens. Some buildings developed little cracks. No casualties were reported.

The Canton Basel prosecutor launched an investigation to find the persons responsible for triggering the earthquake. Computers have been seized by police. The prosecutor declared that it will try to find if anybody could be held responsible for damages.

January 16, 2007 - Hundreds of little earthquakes have been reported during the last month. They culminate with another 3.2 medium earthquake, which angered many more citizens.

The mayor of nearby Saint Louis, France, complained to the Swiss authorities: “You don't have the right to play with the safety of our populations.

Mid-February 2007 – Since December, at least four important earthquakes have shaken Basel and the surrounding region. Incertitude lingered as no scientist was able to predict when tremors are going to stop. At the same time, the population has been warned that stronger earthquakes might strike anytime. And yes, everybody realized that they were dealing with a man-made string of earthquakes caused by nothing else than an innocent geothermal water injection well. The road to hell seemed to be paved with good intentions.

Greenhouse gas, global warming, Kyoto, Al Gore, environmental pollution, fossil fuels, nuclear energy… These are the words that make the headlines nowadays. And yes, the mighty geothermal energy is finally placed on a top priority list by governments, environmental movements, private citizens and city councils all around the world.

Some exploration companies jumped on the train and changed their business focus in a blink of an eye: they’re geothermal explorers now, and entitled to governmental subsidies for their ‘pioneer’ work. To be noted that oil exploration companies have to be credited with creating the technology necessary for drilling and casing deep holes, and even more importantly, with developing an extraordinary geological engineering know-how.

Around the world, people are moving toward geothermal energy, while companies are being created to take advantage of this unique social, economic and political opportunity: the Great Green Awakening. By the way, who needs Greenpeace anymore? Oh, I forgot the Japanese whalers …

It is not just governments that are interested in geothermal power, but oil companies too.

Why would an oil company be interested in investing and producing green energy (i.e. geothermal energy)? It’s not about creating a green image for the company, but a more stringent fact is taken into account: in a world dominated by environmental fears (and carbon emission quotas) you cannot just continue to heavily pollute ‘The Wild Rose Country’ (Alberta’s logo), while distilling their huge ‘dirty’ oil sands deposits.

Natural gas is burned in order to produce hot water/steam necessary to extract the ‘sweet’ from the tar sands. And we’re talking about lots of natural gas which produces lots of greenhouse gas. Cheaper alternatives have been sought. Some companies have already placed their bets on nuclear plants development in northern Alberta. Others, including the major oil sands players, quietly merged their interests and created a consortium called GeoPower in the Oil Sands (GeoPOS).

GeoPOS’ objective is to drill and assess a granite stock lying some 500 m deep, and if the heat proves to be right, they would build an ‘enhanced geothermal system’. It might be the case that an enhanced heater exchange system could produce hot water from pretty low temperature underground fluids, but it seems to me that they should dig a little deeper to at least 2,500-3,000 m, where they might indeed be able to find a higher temperature environment. The story changes if the targeted spot is a ‘hot spot’.

To be continued…