Saudi Arabia is a major oil and gas producing country, but additionally it has good potential for other sources of energy such as solar and geothermal energy. The potential of geothermal energy in Saudi Arabia is evidenced by vast harrat fields covering huge areas along the Red Sea coast. Harrats are volcanic rocks resulted from previous eruptions started with the opening of the Red Sea 30 million years ago. The last documented eruption in the Hijaz Province happened more than 700 years ago. Yet, in 2009, several earthquakes rocked the towns of UmLuj and Alais. The earthquakes were related to an upward movement of volcanic magma in the Lunayyir Volcanic Field. The eruption has not occurred yet, but it is expected to happen at any time.
The basic components of geothermal energy system are heat source, water and a reservoir where heat is exchanged. The heat source is abundantly available along the Red sea coast especially in Jizan Province. Several hot springs exist in that area where the measured heat exceeds 50 C at the surface of the earth.
The petroleum-related activities have proven the existence of sedimentary reservoirs where hydrocarbons are trapped. These reservoirs and other sedimentary formations can be developed for geothermal energy reservoirs. Those formations are available in Jizan and Umluj on the Red Sea shoreline.
Water is a serious problem in Saudi Arabia; it could be a limiting factor on the utilization of geothermal energy. However, since most of the promising areas are adjacent to the shoreline of the Red Sea, sea water could be used in the system. Using the sea water will produce energy and desalinated water by-product.
Saudi Arabia has a good source of clean and sustainable energy if the government decides to utilize it. It exists on the other side of the country away from the giant oil and gas fields, which substantially reduces the cost of transportation and provides cheaper energy.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90142 © 2012 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, April 22-25, 2012, Long Beach, California