With the rising cost of energy around the world, major industries are starting to turn to renewable energy. In South America alone, mines are beginning to form partnerships with renewable energy companies for cleaner and more affordable source of power. Aside from solar power, geothermal energy is one of the most used renewable energy around the world.
Geothermal energy is obtained by securing heat from the thermal core of the earth. Though often overlooked, geothermal energy has a huge significance in the current energy situation worldwide. Geothermal energy is from the earth’s natural core. It is practically the most reliable among all renewable energy sources. It is far above hydropower, weather-dependent windmills, and even solar power.
The cost of building a geothermal plant might seem expensive. However, operating costs are below average, making it an ideal source of energy for any kind of industry. One base metal makes geothermal plants work efficiently: nickel.
Geothermal plants and nickel
Nickel plays a huge part in the construction of geothermal plants. The plants’ structures use a lot of nickel alloys and nickel stainless steels. From an engineering point of view, nickel is the most suitable metal to use on geothermal plants for its high tolerance to heat.
Another factor that places a high value on nickel is its resistance to corrosion. Geothermal brines are corrosive because they contain metal ions, chlorides, corrosive gasses like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. These corrosive compounds come in contact with a geothermal plant’s piping and processing equipment on a regular basis. This is where nickel-containing materials come into the picture. When nickel is mainly used in said processing equipment, corrosion is less likely to happen.
Corrosion damage, in particular, has always been an issue in geothermal plants. This is especially the case for older ones that use carbon steel for the pipework. The Avondale Metallurgy Research Center for the U.S. Bureau of Mines conducted a 1979 study concerning the use of geothermal energy for mining. It showed that nickel alloys were less susceptible to corrosion. Furthermore, it revealed that upon the use of titanium 1.5, nickel and titanium dioxide-infused materials, the piping did “not pit.” They were far better than the materials containing carbon.
In time, operating and engineering experiences grew. Consequently, the application of corrosion-resistant alloys with high nickel content has been increasingly helpful in developing geothermal plants around the world. Nickel plays such an important role in renewable energy that some mines are starting to shift gears in terms of priorities. In the Philippines, Nickel Asia Corp (NAC) is expressing plans to expand into a renewable energy business as Emerging Power Inc. (EPI).
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