Enhanced geothermal energy system R&D gets a boost from DOE money

Blue Mountain Geothermal Plant in Nevada uses binary technology. Credit: Dennis Schroeder / NREL

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy field laboratory announced up to $44 million for projects to develop and test technology to foster innovation in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

The lab said that only a small fraction of the United States’ geothermal resource can be harnessed via naturally occurring hot water or steam. It said that the vast majority is not accessible without the creation of EGS reservoirs.

The University of Utah manages the facility, which is a dedicated field lab for developing technologies to sustain and monitor EGS reservoirs. EGS can be described as the creation of underground reservoirs that are human-made to tap into geothermal power that would otherwise be unavailable. This is achieved by injecting fluid underground into naturally heated rocks. These rocks lack the fluid flow required to draw geothermal energy from the surface. 

The lab site uses testing and R&D to reduce uncertainty and manage risk for commercial development of EGS technologies. It collects data to support EGS development in all aspects, including temperature, subsurface fluid flow and rock types. These data are used by researchers to better understand the subsurface conditions and to identify the best areas to produce geothermal energy.

The announcement for up to 17 awards is expected to build on the laboratory’s existing EGS work and focus on reproducible solutions and dissemination of technical data. 

The current solicitation seeks research proposals in five topics, including seismicity monitoring protocols and novel reservoir stimulation techniques. It also includes experiments on EGS heat extract efficiency, materials to sustain flow paths in EGS reservoirs, and tools capable of withstanding high temperatures while isolating wellbore zones.

More information is available here.