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US DOE to Provide Up to $43.1M Over 4 Years for Enhanced Geothermal Systems Research, Development and Demonstration

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will provide up to $43.1 million over four years (subject to annual appropriations) to 21 awardees, including a 13 awards to first-time recipients, for research, development and demonstration of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) for next-generation geothermal energy technologies. Combined with the minimum industry cost-share of 20%, up to $78 million is slated for public-private investment in these 21 projects over the next four years.

The DOE solicited applications in two topic areas: component technologies research and development, and system demonstrations. (Earlier post.) DOE announced 17 awards in component technologies research and development that will address aspects of engineered reservoir creation, management and utilization at high temperatures up to 300°C and depths as great as 10,000 meters, including 12 awards to first-time recipients.

The four recipients selected under systems demonstration, including one award to a first-time recipient, will allow testing and validation of stimulation techniques for improving productivity of wells or increasing inter-well connectivity at existing geothermal fields.

Component Technologies R&D: DOE awarded $8.7 million to fund these projects for a total of up to $19.1 million over four years, subject to annual appropriations. Award recipients will contribute up to $11.2 million for a total of up to $30.3 million in public-private research and development activities.

  • Baker-Hughes, Inc (Houston, Texas): to develop an ultrasonic borehole televiewer that can operate at a temperature of 300°C and at a depth of 10,000 meters. The proposed tool will provide a means to detect fractures in the subsurface and is critical for the commercialization of EGS (up to $3,139,364).

  • Colorado School of Mines, Boise State University, Flint LLC, Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC (Golden, Colo.): to conduct a geophysical characterization of a geothermal system taking advantage of the latest developments in Self Potential Method and Seismic Interferometry (up to $867,564).

  • Composite Technology with Wood Group ESP and New England Wire Technology (Lafayette, Colo.): to develop and demonstrate Electric Submersible Pump (ESP) motor coil designs that utilize proprietary inorganic insulation materials. These materials can be applied to motor coil winding conductors using conventional motor fabrication processes and provide superior electrical performance at elevated temperatures (up to $987,739).

  • Foulger Consulting and US Geological Survey, Geosystem with WesternGeco, US Navy, Magma Energy US Corporation, and DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Menlo Park, Calif.): to develop high-resolution micro-earthquake tools and methods suited to monitoring EGS-induced geothermal micro-earthquakes. The ultimate goal is to develop an industrial tool to obtain detailed seismic structure of geothermal areas without the need for major active-source seismic surveys (up to $561,729).

  • GE Global Research with Auburn University and GE Energy (Niskayuna, N.Y.): to develop a platform of electronics technologies that can operate at 300°C and 10 km depth enabling the measurement of temperature, flow, pressure and seismicity in an EGS reservoir (up to $1,599,934).

  • Hattenburg, Dilley, and Linnell, LLC with University of Utah/Energy and Geoscience Institute (EGI) (Anchorage, Alaska): to identify open fracture systems by their Fluid Inclusion Stratigraphy (FIS) chemical signature; differences based on the mineral assemblages and geology of the system; and chemical precursors in the wall rock above open, large fractures (up to $313,858).

  • Hi-Q Geophysical Inc., Ormat Technologies, Inc. and Stephen Muir with DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Ponca City, Okla.): to develop surface and borehole seismic methodologies using both compression and shear waves for characterizing fractures in EGS. Both VSP and surface multi-component acquisition geometries will be evaluated (up to $817,757).

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chevron and DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (Cambridge, Mass.): to combine detailed high-resolution analysis of microseismicity accompanying the stimulation of an EGS reservoir with a state-of-the-art geomechanical model of the reservoir to investigate the relationship between the seismicity and flow characteristics (up to $508,633).

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New England Research with ENEL North America (Cambridge, Mass.): to combine the use of geophysical methods for reservoir and fracture characterization with a rock physics model calibrated via advanced laboratory measurements made on reservoir rocks under in situ conditions of temperature (up to 300°C) and pressure (up to $1,019,769).

  • Perma Works and Frequency Management International, ElectroChemical Systems Inc, Draka Cableteq, Pacific Process Systems Inc, Tiger Wireline Inc, Viking Engineering, Kuster Company, Electronic Workmanship Standards Inc, Eclipse NanoMed, Honeywell SSEC (Albuquerque, N.M.): to commercialize the Sandia/DOE HT SOI chipset by addressing the most troubling issues found when designing for long-term exposure to the geothermal well environments such as inter-metallic growth, printed circuit board delamination, ceramic capacitors shorting, and the lack of a safe HT battery (up to $2,200,000).

  • Schlumberger (Sugar Land, Texas): to extend the internal operating range of Electrically Submersible Pump (ESPs) to 338°C for application in both geothermal and the increasingly hotter Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) wells and to develop a heat transfer model that will adequately predict the ESP’s internal operating temperature (up to $1,245,751).

  • Schlumberger (Sugar Land, Texas): to develop a downhole monitoring system to be used in wells with bottom hole temperatures up to 300°C for measuring parameters of an Electrically Submersible Pump (ESP) and well conditions (pressure and temperature) and develop a heat transfer model for the motor that will adequately predict ESP internal operating temperature (up to $1,253,959).

  • Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.): to develop wellbore tools including a downhole enthalpy meter and reservoir engineering approaches including nanotechnology, Resistivity Computer Tomography (RCT) method, and nonparametric regression for fracture characterization in both near well and interwell regions (up to $967,541).

  • Texas A&M University with AltaRock, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of Mississippi (College Station, Texas): to develop an improved seismicity-based reservoir characterization (SBRC) technology by combining rock mechanics, finite element modeling, geo-statistical concepts, and state-of-the-art stochastic inversion techniques to establish relationships between micro-seismicity, reservoir flow and geomechanical characteristics (up to $820,198).

  • Texas A&M University with AltaRock, DOE’s Sandia National Laboratory and University of Mississippi (College Station, Texas): to develop a 3-D numerical model for simulating tensile, shear, and out-of-plane propagation of multiple fractures and fracture clusters to accurately predict geothermal reservoir stimulation using the novel approach of Virtual Multi-dimensional Internal Bond (VMIB) (up to $690,953).

  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah): Demonstrate absorbing tracers, measure near-well fracture surface area via tracer modeling, and develop a tool that measures fluid flow via tracers. (up to $1,091,039).

  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah): to investigate the effect of proppants on fracture stability and their interactions with injected fluids at geothermal temperatures in environments that simulate stresses within the reservoir. The use of proppants to both maintain open fractures, as well as their potential to divert fluids from fracture pathways detrimental to long term sustainability (e.g. fast paths), will be assessed (up to $978,180).

System Demonstrations. DOE awarded $3.7 million to fund these projects, for a total of up to approximately $24 million over four years, subject to annual appropriations. Industry alone will contribute an additional $23.7 million, an almost 50% cost-share. The success of these projects could result in over 400 MWe in new grid capacity within the next five years.

  • AltaRock Energy Inc. and Northern California Power Agency, University of Utah, Texas A&M University, Science Applications International Corporation, Temple University (Seattle, WA): to use an innovative stimulation process to create an EGS reservoir that will drill below the permeable zone, stimulate in the contained zone with infrastructure in place, and increase power production (up to $6,014,351).

  • Geysers Power Co., LLC and DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Middletown, Calif.): to deepen wells into a high temperature zone and thermally stimulate with cold water to increase power production (up to $5,697,700).

  • Ormat Nevada, Inc. and GeothermEx, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Utah, Pinnacle Technologies, GeoMechanics International, University of Nevada - Reno, TerraTek/Schlumberger (Reno, Nev.): to stimulate multiple wells at Brady Field to access existing fracture system (up to $3,374,430).

  • University of Utah and US Geothermal, APEX Petroleum Engineering Services, HiPoint Reservoir Imaging, Chevron (Salt Lake City, Utah): To perform a monitored hydraulic stimulation of an existing injection well at Raft River (Selected for negotiation of award in FY09) (up to $8,928,999).

An MIT-led study of the potential for geothermal energy within the United States published in 2007 found that Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) technology could supply a substantial portion of US electricity well into the future, probably at competitive prices and with minimal environmental impact. Overall, the panel concluded that EGS can likely deliver cumulative capacity of more than 100,000 MWe within 50 years with a modest, multiyear federal investment for RD&D. The panel estimated the total EGS resource base to be more than 13 million exajoules (EJ), with an estimated extractable portion to exceed 200,000 EJ—about 2,000 times the annual consumption of primary energy in the United States in 2005.



Henry Gibson

One geothermal company was extracting Zinc from their wells in California, but the gave up the effort due to low zinc prices before the speculative oil and commodity price run up. It is too bad that this effort was not re-instituted. What other metals or minerals can be extracted.

It is not widely known that some natural geothemal areas produce a lot of CO2. Are these enhanced geothermal processes also going to produce more CO2?

In addition geothermal sytems can release lot of radio-activity in the form of radon and dissolved daughter products, but the total amounts will be far below that produced with natural gas. It must be realized that geothermal energy is nuclear energy from the partial fission of thorium and uranium and drilling will be done through more or less radio-active rock.

There is not a word about directional drilling for tapping larger areas.

The efforts to exploit Geothermal energy may pay off in an entirely different area. Small units can be used to extract electricity from burning natural gas in home and business heating systems. Whilst the electricity is not FREE, it is produced in a far more efficient way than is done by burning the natural gas at central power stations. The burning of natural gas at central power stations should be forbidden by law in favor of small and large cogeneration units. There is an energy saving that can approach %60 and the CO2 saving is %40. The LION steam free piston unit, Wispergen, Honda et cetera are examples of this type of small cogeneration units. Larger units are the Capstone 30 to 200 kilowatt air bearing microturbines. No large home owned by a Hollywood superstar should be without a Capstone unit. Lesser stars should be required to have the Honda units; Perhaps multiple units. It is widely known technology of how they can use them. ..HG..


Doesn't geothermal have earthquake problems?


In granite belt areas the steam/froth will have to be looped to contain the radon gas. All this research money for drilling may be misdirected unless they get the surface technology right, for example the Kalina heat exchanger system with mixed water and ammonia. Note the huge energy needed to drill deep into granite (repeated as a rock volume is cooled) cuts into the EROEI which I suspect is very low. Even district heating as opposed to pure electrical generation may be inefficient compared to solar and gas CHP.


There have been problems with a project in Switzerland that was located in a geologically unstable area. I think the project was discontinued This may be more of an issue for projects tapping existing underground geothermal water resources.

Hot Dry Rock projects are not usually located in unstable areas and therefore not subject to these problems.

Will S

Henry wrote;
> It is not widely known that some natural geothemal areas produce a lot of CO2.

Please share the source of your information with us, and if you can, how much CO2/kWhr, how many plants, etc.

stas peterson

Of the things that the greenwackos never consider is to wonder why "Official renewables" have not been more utilized, to date. The reason that the so-called "renewables" are not utilized more today, is that they are largely uneconomic; and or limited in some fundamental way.

Excluding Hydro which is a reasonable and exploited power source, Geothermal is probably the most feasible of the wet dreams of the Greenies. It holds the prospect of substantial temperature differentials and therefor a reasonable efficiency, unlike wind, or solar, since thermal efficiency is proportional to temperature differences.

Geothermal suffers from at least five fundamental problems.

First, despite the propaganda, the exploitable geothermal places with combinations of usable, regenerating heat, reasonable ranges of working temperatures, and no consequences, is largely limited geographically, to seismic active areas.

Second, the life expectancy of a heat reservoir is somewhat indeterminate. There have been geothermal projects undertaken with a heat reservoir regeneration lifetime estimated at plus 30 years or more, that start exhibiting limits, i.e. plunging temperatures, and short lives after only several months of operation. This has bankrupted the investments, in the oast, and limited financing options to many others. The problem is not just the overall heat availability, but the heat transfer regeneracy rates within the reservoir too. But greenidiots never learn any engineering or economics, so they always think it must be a conspiracy of sort.

Third, corrosion problems are an ever present problem. Unlike a carefully controlled environment where clean steam is used in a power plant, the geothermal wet steam, is full of various dissolved materials. Many times the steam is really not steam at all, but rather a sulfuric or nitric gaseous acid, or perhasp a basic hydroxide. Needless to say that is not conducive to the life expectancy of turbines, turbine blades, or piping, in either case.

Fourth, toxic emissions have been a problem in many geothermal locations. I am not only speaking of CO2 emissions as discussed but dangerous gases such as H2S, SOx, and others as well.

Fifth, there is some trepidation in exploiting a magma pool for its heat. Especially, when your multimillion dollar investment may be sitting on a nascent volcano. As you would expect its hard to arrange long-term financing, as well.

Finally, since geothermal sources are where you find them, they are most often far from consumers of the power produced. Just like the "stranded" solar and windfarms in California, and also in T Boone Pickens Texas facilities, it is difficult to over come the NIMBY resistance to power lines and to secure rights of way.

For all these reasons, the most feasible of the so-called "official renewables" has had but a very limited success to date. And that probably won't change.

There are benefits for geothermal. But at least unlike the solar and wind illusions, geothermal provides a reasonably consistent and non-intermittent source of power. There is not the kind of wild oscillations induced into the power grids that are a disastrous feature of the other varying and intermittent "renewables", that so haunts the Netherlands, the UK, and T Boone's wind power empire.


The number - estimated extractable portion to exceed 200,000 EJ is impressive. It also sounds from comments and research areas as though there are major problems getting equipment to operate consistently at 300+C. Clearly however, given the potential for this source of clean, renewable energy - it should remain on the fastrack for inclusion in the new, overall energy portfolio.

Ideally we will build fully functional generating plants in all the major categories: solar, wind, geothermal, nuke, and even "clean" coal with CCS. Let them compete in near and long term on efficiency and economics. These will be the technologies that vie for dominance in the new HVDC-fed grid developed to power large consumers, industry and government. Meanwhile, small, micro/co-generation, hybrid solar/electrolysis, LENR, and r-t plasma, RPUs will gradually offload residential demand from the grid.

We lower projected demand on the HVDC grid prior to its build out. This is accomplished by consumer conservation, education and development of Residential Power Units that contribute to neighborhood local area grids (same wire, different business model.)

Distributed generation guarantees security, leveling and backup power via multipoint energy sources. Old power companies gradually divest the residential portion of their local demand and build a new industry by manufacture and service of RPUs. This provides far more good, long term jobs and security than a continuation of the old (in-secure) utility model of single point distribution.

@ HG: "Lesser stars should be required to have the Honda units; Perhaps multiple units." While excellent for Honda, even lesser stars and regular folks should be offered choice. But co-generation is a good step.

Will S

Stas wrote:


Your points are predominantly addressed in this recent MIT study;

You'll find that you are far out of date (or completely off track) with your points, so it would be wise to learn the current technologies before ranting about those in the receding past.



Gee Stan you must love this site, where else can you go and abuse everyone you see?

Well go for it mate you obviously have some personal problems - we are here to help for sure, but maybe there are more appropriate anger management or counseling sites that would better suit your needs.

Might even be some you dont have to pay for.

Maybe some regulars could help out with a subscription?

ruben moulin

There is a far greater amount of abuse heaped on any at GCC who deign question the science of AGW. And those who discuss the Medieval Warm Period, nuclear energy, ethanol or any American [fill in the blank] - are equally hounded. We might suggest that these "green extremes" be admitted for a checkup from the neckup. Their hostility permeates this and other "green" sites, further tarnishing the green cause.

It's an informative site - too bad prejudice is so abundant.

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