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$44M Available From DOE for Innovation in Geothermal Sector

August 15, 2022 by Dan McCue
Geothermal energy in New Mexico. (Bureau of Land Management photo)

WASHINGTON — Up to $44 million is being made available for projects to develop and test technology to foster innovation in enhanced geothermal energy systems, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Monday.

The funding opportunity is being managed by the DOE’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy at the University of Utah.

“The United States has incredible, untapped potential for clean geothermal power to help meet our energy needs with a round-the-clock resource available across the country,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in a written statement. 

“These new investments at FORGE, the flagship of our [enhanced geothermal system] research, can help us find the most innovative, cost-effective solutions and accelerate our work toward wide-scale geothermal deployment and support President Biden’s ambitious climate goals,” she added.

Geothermal energy has the potential to provide electricity as well as direct heating and cooling to tens of millions of homes nationwide. The problem is, only a small portion of the vast resource can be harnessed through naturally occurring hot water or steam.

To truly make geothermal energy a cornerstone of the nation’s clean energy future requires the creation of human-made EGS reservoirs.

At these facilities, fluid is injected deep underground into naturally heated rocks that otherwise lack the fluid flow necessary to draw geothermal energy to the surface.

The Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy is the Energy Department’s  field laboratory for developing technologies to create, sustain and monitor these reservoirs. 

The site uses testing and R&D to reduce uncertainty and manage risk for commercial development of EGS technologies. 

The observatory also collects valuable data for all aspects of EGS development, including subsurface fluid flow, temperatures, rock types and more. This data allows researchers to better understand subsurface conditions, helps identify the best areas for geothermal production, and provides information that can be used to optimize tools and methods that work well in geothermal environments.

The newly announced funding will be divided among up to 17 different projects building on the observatory’s existing EGS work and focus on reproducible solutions and dissemination of technical data. 

The solicitation requests research proposals in five topic areas, including seismicity monitoring protocols, novel reservoir stimulation techniques, experiments on EGS heat extraction efficiency, materials to sustain flow pathways in EGS reservoirs, and tools that can withstand high temperatures while isolating zones within the wellbore.

For detailed information about this opportunity, visit the FORGE website.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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