Thermal-powered platform

Thermal vents on the sea floor provide a source of infinitely renewable power and rare minerals. The value of energy from thermal production is expected to grow from $16bn in 2018 to $55bn by 2024.[1] Thermal vents are located along fault lines at difficult-to-exploit depths and distances from shore, including in areas in the North Atlantic.

Another problem that occurs at distances far from shore is illegal fishing. The illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing market is valued at $23.5bn, with 1 in every 5 fish caught outside of regulatory oversight.[2] Patrolling distant waters is difficult and expensive, but thwarting IUU fishing not only has the potential to increase fish counts, but will also lead to €4bn in increased value for the regulated fishing economy in the North Sea alone.[3]

Exploiting the thermal energy and mineral abundance from the deep sea, and policing illegal fishing, could be accomplished by the construction of an offshore platform located over these vents. Offshore platforms can harness thermal energy from seafloor vents and surplus energy can be used to produce hydrogen. The energy surplus can be used to power vessels and aircraft that can base and refuel on these platforms. With the rise of autonomous navigation and advanced sensors, these vessels and aircraft can be sent on patrol, and relay data back to coastguards, notifying them of any and all activities detected.[4,5]

When will a thermal-powered multi-use platform be constructed for the extraction of ocean resources and the autonomous detection of illegal fishing?

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[1] Global Market Insights (2018), Thermal Energy Storage Market to hit $55bn by 2024
[2] PEW (2017), How to End Illegal Fishing
[3] PEW Environment Group (2008), The costs of IUU fishing to the EU
[4] Chowdhury, H. (2019), Drones and self-driving boats could stop illegal fishing in Britain's seas post-Brexit
[5] Scott, K. (2018), Drones driven by AI will track illegal fishing in African waters

By Matthew J. Spaniol