Market Insights

Geothermal Could Make Decarbonization More Affordable

April 04, 2023 by Claire Turvill

Research from the University of Canterbury has identified a sustainable and cost-effective solution to reduce carbon emissions and generate renewable energy. 

In 2019, New Zealand added itself to a now-long list of countries committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Decarbonizing the country’s economy is a complex task that requires significant changes across multiple sectors, including energy, transportation, agriculture, and industry. Leaders are concerned about effectively maintaining the existing living standards while reducing fossil fuel emissions without jeopardizing the economy’s financial stability.


Significant decarbonization efforts are required. Image used courtesy of Pixabay


Researchers at the University of Canterbury (UC) in New Zealand have identified a cost-effective and sustainable energy resource that can eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.


Geothermal-Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Karan Titus, a Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at UC, has explored utilizing geothermal reservoirs’ hot water and burning forestry residue to superheat the water and produce electricity. The geothermal water is reinjected underground, accompanied by the CO2 discharged during the wood-burning process.

This process is called Geothermal-Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS) and has been proven to have significant benefits, including generating renewable energy, indirectly pulling CO2 from the atmosphere to store underground, and being a cost-effective alternative to traditional geothermal power

Geothermal-BECCS plants have the potential to capture and store 1 million tons of usable CO2 each year.

In addition to being more cost-effective compared to traditional geothermal, due to its dual-decarbonization efforts–renewable power and secure CO2 storage–BECCS systems become more profitable per ton of CO2 than other popular climate change reduction strategies.


Tackling Climate Change 

Titus’s research aims to explore a novel approach to boost geothermal energy production by pairing it with the injection of CO2 separated directly from the air, a process already in use in Iceland. This process could create a carbon-negative energy cycle, which aligns with New Zealand’s long-term energy and sustainability goals and addresses the affordability of climate change action, a key challenge in achieving the country’s net-zero emissions goal by 2050.


The effects of climate change. Image used courtesy of Pixabay


The supervising senior lecturers of the research, Dr. Rebecca Peer and Dr. David Dampsey said this is an example of innovative thinking that could contribute to tackling the global issue of climate change. The proposed solution leverages indigenous resources and addresses national issues such as forestry slash, which is a by-product of forestry and a potential biomass source for energy production. Overall, this research has the potential to provide a pathway toward sustainable energy production while reducing carbon emissions.

Titus says his interest in working on a climate change solution stems from childhood. Many extreme weather events are being made worse by the rise in emissions that no one solution will fix.

Geothermal-Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Sequestration seems like promising approach to tackling climate change while addressing the need for sustainable energy production and safeguarding the economy.