U Start-Up to Create Renewable Energy with Captured CO2

Heat Mining Company's novel "CO2 plume geothermal" method involves extracting underground heat and using it to generate electricity.

The University of Minnesota has launched a new start-up that aims to capture harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fueled power plants and use them to generate renewable energy.

The university announced last week that it has launched the Rapid City, South Dakota-based start-up, Heat Mining Company, LLC.

The company's novel “CO2 plume geothermal” method involves capturing CO2 emissions from power plants and using that CO2, rather than water, to extract heat that is stored underground. The resulting thermal energy will then be used to generate electricity, according to the university.

The high cost of capturing carbon dioxide has previously been a significant obstacle for energy providers-but the new geothermal technology can generate revenue from electricity sales, thus offsetting those costs, the university said.

The process is expected to not only generate renewable energy, but to also permanently store the CO2 underground-resulting in a “negative carbon footprint,” according to the university.

“We have enough storage potential in the United States alone to store 100 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by fossil-fueled power plants for about a thousand years,” Heat Mining Company President Stephen O'Rourke said in a statement.

The geothermal technology can also serve as a high-efficiency back-up for intermittently available energy sources, such as wind and solar power, the university said. Existing fossil-fueled power plants can be retrofitted to incorporate the technology, or new plants can be constructed to employ it.

The “CO2 plume geothermal” method has been demonstrated in computer simulations and “details have been investigated in laboratory experiments,” the university said. The next step is to build a pilot plant and physically test the technology.

Through its Office for Technology Commercialization, the University of Minnesota licensed the technology exclusively to Heat Mining Company. The concept was developed by Martin Saar, an earth sciences professor; postdoctoral fellow Jimmy Randolph; and Thomas Kuehn, a mechanical engineering professor.