Providence finds boiling water with electric potential 3km below seabed
Irish oil and gas explorer Providence Resources is evaluating whether it can generate electricity from billions of barrels of boiling water under the sea bed.
The green energy project would be revolutionary for the Irish energy sector - the first large-scale example of its type here, with Ireland well behind on meeting its carbon emissions targets.
The project would be a type of geothermal energy - energy derived from the heat under the surface of the planet.
The boiling water is 3km below the sea bed, at a location where it gets heated because it is close to magma beneath the Earth's crust.
A number of significant players in the geothermal energy sector have expressed an interest in the idea and are due to travel to Ireland next month to discuss how it could be progressed beyond the research stage.
The boiling water is in an area off the south-west coast of Ireland.
Providence Resources, run by Tony O'Reilly Jr, was looking for oil there in an area known as Dunquin North, but found only residual amounts.
However, the presence of the boiling water presents the opportunity to generate energy in a different manner.
One option Providence is considering is to install a so-called 'heat exchanger' on the seabed. The boiling water would be pumped up to the seabed, and then into the exchanger.
Once there, the heat in the water would cause a separate fluid in the heat exchanger to expand. That expansion would power a turbine, generating the electricity to be sent back to shore.
The water would then be pumped down again into the reservoir from which it came -meaning the electricity would be renewable.