It has been proposed to extract energy from the subterranean hot dry rock bed (HDR) by creating one or more narrow fractures in the rock and circulating cold water through the fractures. In time, the temperature of the rock region surrounding the crack drops under the influence of time-dependent conduction. This study presents the most basic thermodynamic aspects (first law and second law) of the HDR energy extraction process. It shows which parameters most influence the amount of useful energy (exergy) extracted from the HDR reservoir over a fixed time interval. For example, the water flow rate can be selected optimally in order to maximize the delivery of energy over the lifetime of the HDR system. © 1992.