Studies discover great geothermal potential in Singapore for district cooling opportunities

A site near the Sembawang hot spring in Singapore has recently been discovered to harbour water temperatures of 60°C to 90°C at a depth of 1.1km. This is hotter than water found at similar depths in many European countries.

Furthermore, the geological landscape under Singapore contains suitable conditions for rock to retain a substantial amount of heat. This site and the Sembawang hot spring are located in the geological region called the Simpang Granite Pluton, where granite is found. Granite is rich in elements like uranium, thorium, and potassium, making it highly effective in both heat transfer and storage.

Singapore’s demand for geothermal extraction from hot rock, for example, can be met with Eavor-Loop™ technology, as it harnesses underground heat through a closed-loop system. Furthermore, the very low land footprint makes these systems exceptionally compatible with high-density populated areas.

Associate Professor Alessandro Romagnoli stated that “land-scarce Singapore could benefit from closed-loop heat extraction systems, which would require a far smaller surface area per unit of power produced than other types of power plants, including ones running on fossil fuel.”

Co-leader of the study and TUMCREATE’s lead scientist, Dr. Tobias Massier, emphasized that geothermal power plants can convert the heat into cool air, and it could sufficiently supply 12 percent of Singapore’s demand for air conditioning.

“In my opinion, particularly for cooling, geothermal has quite a high potential [for Singapore] because currently, you use natural gas, burn it, convert it to electricity, then convert it to cool air. With geothermal, however, we can use the heat directly from the Earth for cooling, which is a much higher efficiency. And with upcoming data centers and growing populations, this is really important,” said Massier in an interview with CNA.

Singapore is one of the largest hubs for data centers in the world, with a substantial amount of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency facilities. These facilities need to be operational around the clock, which requires constant cooling to keep their systems from overheating and malfunctioning. These centers actively consume around 7 percent of Singapore’s total electricity.

District cooling is increasing in demand as global temperatures rise, and yet there are very few meaningful installations of geothermal extraction in hot countries. Geothermal technology can be a great asset to countries that have a high demand for district cooling and reliance on data centers because it provides reliable baseload energy that is consistently available.

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