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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The VC arms of Chevron and BP are funding Eavor, a startup looking to commercialize a form of geothermal energy that it says can provide large-scale power in many regions worldwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest sign of momentum and investor interest behind technology that could significantly scale up geothermal.

  • It's a very old power and heat source that remains very niche compared to the immense theoretical potential of tapping high subsurface temperatures.

The big picture: The participation of Chevron and BP shows how oil giants are diversifying into clean energy — and in this case, a form of geothermal that borrows the industry's drilling and geological know-how.

Driving the news: Calgary-based Eavor this morning announced a $40 million funding round.

  • Other backers are investment firms Temasek, BDC Capital, and Vickers Venture Partners, and Eversource.
  • "These investments, and the partnerships formed around them, are critical to the commercialization of the technology and to help Eavor scale its already extensive project pipeline," the announcement states.
  • The company's development pipeline includes planned or potential potential projects in Europe, Canada and elsewhere.
  • The amounts coming from the different funders was not disclosed and Eavor declined to offer a breakdown.

How it works: Geothermal energy can come from multiple ways of accessing high-temperature underground aquifers and rock formations.

Eavor's effort aims to commercialize a "closed loop" system in which deep wells are connected underground with lateral connections.

  • In the "closed" system, fluids are circulated through the system and heated by high underground temperatures, forming what they call a "massive subsurface radiator."
  • The process is meant to operate without energy-consuming pumps — instead relying on the natural effect of hot fluid rising and cool fluid falling.
  • The thermal energy brought to the surface can be used for direct heating or converted to power.
  • The method could provide both baseload power and act as a dispatchable battery to complement wind and solar, the company said.

Yes, but: "To grow as a national solution, geothermal must overcome significant technical and non-technical barriers in order to reduce cost and risk," noted a major 2019 Energy Department analysis (h/t Yale Environment 360).

  • That DOE report, however, sees tech, cost and regulatory improvements providing the potential for geothermal to grow 26-fold to provide 60 gigawatts of power capacity in the U.S. by 2050.

The intrigue: The emerging forms of geothermal involve tricky and deep subsurface technologies.

  • They rely in part on the same kind of drilling advances used in the oil-and-gas sector — including use of lateral-well tech.
  • That's not lost on the oilfield services industry, with companies including Baker Hughes and Schlumberger seeing growth potential.

Go deeper: Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout (Vox)

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
13 mins ago - Health

The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

The Wuhan Institute of Virology. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

A group of high-profile scientists published a letter calling for renewed investigation into the origins of COVID-19 — including the theory that it spilled out of a virology lab.

Why it matters: The possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a Chinese lab and accidentally escaped — rather than emerging naturally from an animal — was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory. But the letter shows a potential lab leak is increasingly being taken seriously.

Colonial Pipeline resumes normal operations after ransomware hack

A fuel tank at Colonial Pipeline's Dorsey Junction Station on May 13, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Colonial Pipeline resumed normal operations on Saturday after a ransomware attack forced the pipeline to shut down last week, the company announced.

Why it matters: The pipeline is now delivering fuel to states that had experienced gas shortages at the same capacities as before the extortion scheme hit the critical pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York and carries roughly 100 million gallons of fuel per day.