DOE Announces Geothermal Manufacturing Prize Winners
WASHINGTON — Two teams from Houston, Texas, were the inaugural winners of the American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to incentivize innovation in the creation of sensitive equipment to operate in harsh geothermal environments.
The winners were the quite literally named Team Downhole Emerging Technologies and Ultra-High Temperature Logging Tool who presented their innovations alongside other finalists at the annual Geothermal Rising Conference in Reno, Nevada.
Each winning team was awarded $500,000 in cash and up to $200,000 to test their innovations in the field.
The Downhole Emerging Technologies team developed an alternative to traditional packer systems.
The all-metal, retrievable packer system is designed specifically for high temperatures, extreme pressures and corrosion experienced in geothermal wells.
The Downhole Emerging Technologies’ partnership resulted in the production of the largest Inconel additively manufactured component by Protolabs, Inc. and the development of DET’s tool, the Diamond Extreme Temperature Isolation Packer.
The Ultra-High Temperature Logging Tool team developed a technology that uses a labyrinthian heat sink to reduce thermal emissivity and increase the exposure time of temperature sensitive electronic components.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory used a powder bed laser fusion technique to manufacture the heat sink design, with the aim that the technology would solve limitations around maximum temperature rating and the lifetime of electronics in logging and measurement tools.
The team also worked closely with Sandia National Laboratories to test the logging prototype in a high-temperature setting.
“This DOE competition harnesses breakthroughs in additive manufacturing to help overcome barriers to widespread deployment of geothermal energy,” said Alejandro Moreno, deputy assistant secretary for Renewable Power, in a written statement.
“The rapid prototype development supported by this prize is spurring advancements in the geothermal industry to help power the nation from the heat beneath our feet,” he added.
The goal of the competition, which was launched in January 2020, is to achieve improved performance, drive down costs and expand clean energy deployment.
Harsh geothermal environments — high temperatures, nearly impenetrable rocks and corrosive fluids — pose significant challenges for manufacturing tools, components and equipment.
These tools and equipment have high manufacturing costs because the small U.S. geothermal market results in low production volumes and harsh conditions shorten the lifespans of equipment.
During the competition, teams developed, tested and revised prototypes using additive manufacturing to support the advancement of geothermal tools and technologies.
Additive manufacturing can help improve the performance of geothermal tools and equipment by supporting the identification of high-performance materials, the creation of complex components and quick development of prototypes, leading to rapid advances in geothermal manufacturing.
The American-Made Geothermal Manufacturing Prize is supported by the Geothermal Technologies Office and the Advanced Manufacturing Office in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.