Addressing the modern concerns voiced by economists and environmentalists with regard to the fuel resources on the planet, it is especially remarkable that more and more hopes are reposed in the so-called alternative sources of energy. The requirements to the fuel of the present day mostly concern its sustainability and environmental friendliness in terms of low greenhouse gas emission. Among the most attractive options to consider when choosing an alternative source of energy is geothermal energy.
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This type of energy is produced by using the natural heat of the Earth interior that is released at certain surface areas at the temperature of more than 100°C (German Advisory Council on Global Change 71–72). In contrast to other types of sustainable energy like solar and wind power, the source of geothermal energy is constant and continuously available, which makes it an especially attractive alternative.
Against the general trend in the global community towards producing sustainable energy from ecologically friendly sources, the situation in the Middle East can be described as rather conservative. According to the latest estimates, the main sources of energy and, respectively, electricity in the Middle East states still remain traditional and include gas, oil, hydropower, and coal (see table 1).
However, the demand for energy is steadily increasing: only within the two decennia from 1980 to 2000 the annual energy consumption for Iran skyrocketed from 1.6 quadrillion Btu to 4.7 quadrillion Btu per year (Mostafaeipour & Mostafaeipour 1643).
This necessity stimulates the interest in alternative sources of energy that can assist if not substitute for the traditional ones. Among those alternative sources is geothermal energy since the peculiarities of terrain in the Middle East are favorable for developing this type of energy sources.
Not much is known to the general public regarding the development of the geothermal energy in the countries of the Middle East. The results of a survey conducted among students of Customer Inserts His/Her School Name demonstrate that although the majority of people agree the Middle East should be seeking for energy sources other than the traditional oil, geothermal energy is hardly viewed as an alternative for this region as an alternative for this region (see Appendix for details).
In spite of the apparent traditionalism in meeting the energy need issues in the countries of the Middle East, there exists a definite trend towards sustainability and search for alternative sources of energy.
The purpose of this report is to trace the recent developments in geothermal energy production in a number of Middle East states and through this information to demonstrate a deliberate change in the attitude to energy production and consumption. Furthermore, a conclusion should be reached about the evident increase in the environmental consciousness in the Middle East countries that employ geothermal energy in spite of the hindrances to setting up geothermal power plants.
The recent developments in geothermal energy in Middle East countries
Against the general preference of traditional sources of energy in the countries of the Middle East, one can observe a significant break-through in sustainable technologies and particularly in the application of geothermal energy.
A vivid example of such a break-through can be found in the existence of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Geothermal, a major design and installation company in the Middle East and North Africa. The demand for geothermal energy is rising in many countries of the Middle East, which is to be discussed hereinafter.
The developments in geothermal energy in Iran
The history of the interest in the geothermal energy in Iran dates back to the mid-1970s, when a development project was launched by the initiative of a UN representative to investigate the prospects of geothermal power generation (Chitchian 1). The results of the preliminary investigation turned out to be positive, and an agreement was achieved to continue the research of the area.
However, no significant steps had been undertaken until the mid-1990s, when a second tide of research projects was launched. As a result of those mapping expeditions, more than a dozen promising areas were singled out as prospective for geothermal energy production (see figure 1).
On the basis of the data obtained from mapping, two large-scale geothermal energy projects have been launched. The first of them, called Sabalan Project, which includes further in-depth investigation of the geothermal area with the consequent well drilling and plant construction (Chitchian 2).
The second venture is the Damavand Project, which is aimed at a comprehensive exploration of an area north of Tehran. The applications forecast for geothermal energy in Iran concern two aspects: geothermal heat pump providing electricity for the nearby areas and balneologic facilities aimed at attracting tourists to the region.
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The developments in geothermal energy in Palestine
The Palestinian achievements in geothermal energy application come by large through the efforts taken by Union Construction and Investment Corp.
(UCI) and their sister company MENA Geothermal. Witnessing the energy crisis in the country when the people have to pay some of the highest energy prices in the region, the UCI business development manager set his mind on solving the problem by means of sustainable development (Sabawi & Green 1). Geothermal technology was chosen by him as an ideal way to meet both the heating and the cooling needs of the buildings in the local climate.
As a setting for the large commercial application of the geothermal heating and cooling system, MENA Geothermal selected the Etihad Subdivision of UCI in Ramalah (Sabawi & Green 1). After all the necessary construction works have been completed, the subdivision can boast two water-to-air geothermal heat pumps that provide both heating and cooling to the buildings complex.
As to the efficiency of the project, the organizers expect it to save “approximately 75,500 kWh of electricity consumption and 8,600 liters of diesel fuel per year, resulting in maintenance and operating costs savings of 18,500 USD every year” (MENA Geothermal, “MENA Geothermal Installs Geothermal System” 1).
In addition, the green technologies used in the construction process allow the building not to emit any carbon dioxide, sparing the humanity the trouble of 37 tons of CO2 per year (MENA Geothermal, “MENA Geothermal Installs Geothermal System” 1).
The developments in geothermal energy in Jordan
Following its astonishing success with the Etihad Subdivision Project, MENA Geothermal continues to introduce green technologies not only in Palestine but in Jordan as well. In spring 2010, MENA Geothermal proudly declared itself to be the company chosen for installing geothermal heating and cooling systems at the University of Madaba in Jordan.
The project is no less ambitious than the previous one and is claimed to be the largest geothermal system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA Geothermal, “MENA Geothermal Awarded 1.6 MW Geothermal System” 1).
According to the company estimates, the installation of the enormous ground heat exchanger system will annually save an impressive 200,000 kWh of electricity used for cooling and 100,000 liters of diesel fuel used for heating (MENA Geothermal, “MENA Geothermal Awarded 1.6 MW Geothermal System” 1). All these factors not only witness for MENA’s success but also serve as an informative source for those who have not tried sustainable lifestyle yet.
The developments in geothermal energy in the United Arab Emirates
A noteworthy debate characterizes the beginnings of geothermal energy research in the United Arab Emirates. Trying to keep abreast of the times, a Masdar’s Project for a Zero-Carbon Emissions City is conducting investigation of the possible geothermal energy opportunities in UAE (Bakr).
Rated as one of the highest greenhouse gases emission countries worldwide, United Arab Emirates faces the necessity to reconsider its energy production technologies and to substitute them with more sustainable and environmentally friendly analogues. Therefore, apart from solar and hydrogen power projects, Abu Dhabi is also considering the opportunities provided by geothermal energy. However, specialists claim there can be some problems with the latter option.
According to various expert opinions, geothermal energy might not be the best choice for UAE as its major power source (Bakr). This skepticism emerges due to the geographic position and the geological peculiarities of the country that lacks natural water resources.
Without the latter it could turn out too expensive or even impossible to conduct energy production based on geothermal resources. The costs of desalinating water for geothermal plants would by large exceed those spent on producing energy from other alternative sources. Therefore, doubts exist as to whether UAE should consider geothermal energy as the primary alternative option.
The developments in geothermal energy in Turkey
Due to its favorable geographic position and geological conditions, Turkey occupies one of the leading places among the countries of the Middle East with respect to geothermal energy. The first geothermal power installation appeared in Turkey as early as 1987 and within the next two decades 19 more were added to reinforce energy production through sustainable technologies (Serpen, Aksoy & Öngürc 1).
Major geothermal fields are scattered all around the country, in its east, west, and center in the areas with most tectonic activities, and therefore provide a perfect opportunity for the developers to install a geothermal plant (see figure 2).
Having a developed network of geothermal power plants and occupying a third place in the world list of countries utilising geothermal energy Turkey uses this type of energy for three purposes (Bertani 1). Firstly, district heating is conducted in the areas the where the temperature of geothermal resources is low.
Secondly, due to Turkey’s involvement in fresh fruit and vegetable trade, greenhouse heating is a significant need that is perfectly met with the help of geothermal energy. Last but not least, spa sites are an attractive tourist spot, and Turkey makes good profit of this business opening health centers wherever suitable.
Despite the popularity of geothermal energy in Turkey, there are certain hindrances to its full profitability. For one thing, there are no mechanisms for utilization and recycling the old pumps.
For another thing, district heating projects appear to cost more than planned due to the fact that natural gas still holds very strong positions on the energy market and there are not many geothermal resources close to the dwellings of the people (Serpen, Aksoy & Öngürc 5). In any case, Turkey continues its research on geothermal energy in order to keep up with the environmentally conscious Europe.
As it appears from official sources, the situation with geothermal energy in the Middle East varies by country. However, a general trend exists demonstrating an increased interest in promoting green energy in the Middle East.
Although not the whole region can provide all the conditions necessary for geothermal energy production, it is worth remembering that substitution of even a small share of traditional energy-producing technologies with geothermal ones in the Middle East countries still ensures “0.2 exajoules a year for heat and 17 terawatt-hours a year for electricity; 1.7% and 1.4% of the world’s total respectively” (Watts).
If geothermal energy is not the main solution for the energy crisis in the Middle East, it is at least a way to mitigate the possible ecological catastrophes that could occur due to the traditional power producing technologies.
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