Mexico City Valley. Popocatepetl Volcano

Consider Mexico’s geographic location, it is situated at the epicenter and pivoting point of the former super-continent, Pangaea. Its location is at the center of what used to be all six continents in one. These matter, energy and geo-dynamic evolution created a lithosphere full of unique structures, reliefs and configurations. For instance, the Yucatan Peninsula is the only north-facing peninsula in the world, while the Baja California peninsula, is the longest south-facing peninsula. Both acting as gigantic natural pendulums.

Mexico is divided in the middle by two distinct geologic platforms combined into one neo-volcanic system, located in the middle of the Americas, at the top of the Cocos/Ring of Fire tectonic plate and a parallel to the Equator (at approximately 850 km). The newly-emerged volcanic ridge formed a million years ago, is equivalent to a huge natural dam that changed the hydrology of several basins.

Central Region. The Popocatepetl/Ajusco neo-volcanic system formed a 70-km long volcanic dam transforming the Mexico City Valley into a closed basin without a natural outlet to the sea.

The geological activity in the Popocatépetl volcano results in the evaporation of large volumes of groundwater (regularly forming steam clouds), a phenomenon that is thought be a tendency to shorten the habitability of the Mexico City Valley and Puebla. Its chimney is nearly two acres across and frequently ejects incandescent material, gases, minerals, ash and water steam.

The exhaling takes place when large volumes of water from regional aquifers are sucked in by the volcano reducing the availability of ground water, which in return, causes ground subsidence (40 centimeters per year), voids, cracks, fractures, flooding and infiltration of waste water onto plateau.

The Popocatepetl Geo-thermoelectric Project (PGT), located in Puebla and Mexico States, is conceptualized; planned and developed around productively, optimally and objectively exploit the valuable, strategic and endless endogenous heat and steam to generate electric power. As well as to taking advantage of hydroponics to extend the alternatives for farming.

The above would be accomplished by setting up three very safe geothermal complexes or sites: Huitlostoc, Tlamacas and Xalipilcayatl. Each located at 3900 meters above sea level and four kilometers from the volcano crater.

It is evident that there are multiple risks associated with setting up such complexes in active-volcano areas. But, by transforming this form of energy into an endless source of clean energy, it would save a tremendous amount of hydrocarbons (oil, natural gas, fuel oil, and diesel), coal, and uranium. While on the economic side of it, energy and capital investments would rise their value and competitiveness by it almost immediately.

The complexes would feature inclined wells directed towards the volcano chimney. These wells would vary in length, from 3820m to 5660m depending on the inclination of the actual slope. The high-pressure, high-temperature steam flow, which is currently around 20 m³/s would be more than enough power to supply to the actual geothermal plants running sets of large turbo-generators (between 500 MW and 750 MW).

Neo-volcanic mountain range. Geo-thermal activity and tectonic subduction. Popocatepetl Volcano: 5440m above sea level.

It is a fact that the constant geothermal activity of the volcano is both, a threat, and a tremendous opportunity to continuing progress. By extracting and channeling part of the volcano’s endogenous energy, there would be a notable increase in natural gas supply overall and significantly reduce the use and consumption of hydrocarbon resources currently used by the electric (CFE) oil (PEMEX) industries.

Thus, the ability to drill the wells at an incline is at the very essence of the PGT project. With diameters ranging from one meter (40 inches to start) to 25cm (10 inches in the vicinity of the chimney), drilling for these geothermal wells will require innovation, new development and updated construction processes.

 Popocatépetl 7a

Popocatepetl Volcano. Huge water evaporation and groundwater consumption (about 20 cubic meters per second) of the aquifers in the valleys of Mexico and Puebla. Cloud formation.

Hence, it would be a priority to properly exploit the Huitlastoc, Tlamacas and Xalipilcayatl complexes, both, for energy, technical and economic advantages, as well for representing the possibility of leaving behind the current primary sources of energy, such as oil, natural gas, coal, diesel, uranium, etc.

The invaluable gift that the Popocatepetl volcano represents to the middle region of Mexico should be put to work immediately as opposed to be seen as a constant danger or threat. By implementing well-conceptualized, defined and coordinated plans and programs to use this energy resource, it would help sort and redirect development in the sector.

The amount of steam produced by the volcano makes it very attractive to install high-capacity power generation facilities. For instance, for each 1000 Megawatts used, there is a potential to generate 7440 Gigawatts·hour annually in return, which represent similar production numbers to those of the Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Veracruz or the Power Plant in Tula, Hidalgo, but in this case, using a renewable and unlimited resource. Also, by doing so, the industry would replace 12.40 million barrels of fuel oil, 1.715-million m³ of natural gas, 3.72-million tons of coal, or 3.724-billion liters of diesel, which more and more are sourced from overseas suppliers.

Based on this information, the output and power production of the proposed geothermal plants would get multiplied by the thousands.

Popocatépetl Geo-thermoelectric Project. Savings and Substituting Fuel.

Power Output Megawatts

Annual Production GW·h

Fuel. Savings in barrels x 106

Natural Gas. Savings in m³ x 106

Coal. Savings in tons x 106

Diesel. Savings in litters x 106

500

3723

6.20

857

1.86

1862

750

5585

9.30

1285

2.79

2793

1000

7450

12.41

1715

3.72

3724

2000

14900

24.83

3428

7.44

7448

3000

22338

36.75

5140

11.16

11172

4000

29800

49.64

6860

14.88

14896

5000

37250

62.05

8575

18.60

18620

By assessing with vision and objectivity the relation between benefit, cost and risk in terms of energy, the favorable economic impact of this project is evident, especially based on the fact that it would not require to relocate non-renewable resources. Also, by rationalizing the use of fossil fuels in the oil and power industries, the manufacturing sector would have access to better and more reliable fuels. As consequence, the Mexican Government would promote tax incentives to investors seeking to start and expand industrial, commercial and business activities, which in return, would result in the creation of countless sources of work and diversified activities.

Popocatépetl 3a

Popocatepetl Geo-thermoelectric Project. Geothermal Fields

Concept

G.C. Huitlastoc

G.C. Tlamacas

G.C. Xalipilcayatl

Distance to crater

3850m southwest

4000m north

3750m northeast

Altitude (meters above sea level, masl)

3985

3860

3820

Latitude (north)

19° 00’ 34”

19° 03’ 31”

19° 02’ 08”

Longitude (west)

98° 39’ 22”

98° 37’ 28”

98° 35’ 23”

15°-inclined wells (length and depth)

from 3985 m to 2953 masl

from 4141 m to 2788 masl

from 3882 m to

2815 masl

30°-inclined wells (length and depth)

from 4445 m to 1762 masl

from 4620 m to 1550 masl

from 4330 m to

1655 masl

45°-inclined wells (length and depth)

from 5445 m to 135 masl

from 5657 m to

-140 masl

from 5303 m to

70 masl

By assessing with vision and objectivity the relation between benefit, cost and risk in terms of energy as opposed to economic, it would make it quite clear to understand the favorable impact on the economy itself as a result of not displacing non-renewable resources. Also, by rationalizing the use of fossil fuels in the oil and power industries, the manufacturing sector would have access to better and more reliable fuels. As consequence, the Mexican Government would promote tax incentives to investors seeking to start and expand industrial, commercial and business activities, which return, would result in the creation of countless sources of work and diversified activities.

If the convenient and strategic energy reserve in the Popocatepetl Volcano is not creativity transformed, it will continue evaporating and consuming large volumes of groundwater and be considered a latent danger.

It is clear that the Mexico City Valley is headed for collapse if no action is taken. Its 20-million inhabitants’ growing demand for water, the centralism, conurbation and territorial expansion (over 2000 km²) are at fault.

The PGT coupled with National Project México Tercer Milenio, particularly, the Amacuzac Chauzingo Valle de Mexico Project (ChAVM) would be the perfect solution to avoid this unflattering fate.

Popocatépetl 6a

Inclined geo-thermal wells directed toward the volcano chimney. Endogenous heat and steam reservoir.

It is up to the public and the private and social sector with shared investment and development goals and objectives to put into effect a consistent and well-planned infrastructure project based on vast, continuous and safe electricity and food production. This project is aimed at replacing demand for imported fossil fuels and save non-renewable resources, not to mention, large amounts of money.

The PGT Popocatepetl is an innovative, viable and unique project, which based on its fundamentals, functions and contributions, will become an enduring and profitable business for Mexico.

Manuel Frias Alcaraz
Author of the Nationwide Project México Tercer Milenio (www.mexicotm.com)
Mexico, DF October 2012

© México Tercer Milenio. Documents, plans, programs, and all materials.


Acerca de este Artículo