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DOE to award up to $44M to advance enhanced geothermal systems

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) field laboratory announced up to $44 million for up to 17 projects to develop and test technology to foster innovation in enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

Geothermal energy has the potential to provide electricity as well as direct heating and cooling to tens of millions of homes nationwide. While a small fraction of the United States’ vast geothermal resource can be harnessed via naturally occurring hot water or steam, the vast majority is inaccessible without the creation of human-made EGS reservoirs.

Substantial and sustained investment in technology development is vital to EGS commercialization, which can significantly increase geothermal energy deployment and help the country meet its climate goals.

Managed by the University of Utah, FORGE is DOE’s dedicated field laboratory for developing technologies to create, sustain, and monitor EGS reservoirs. Simplified, EGS is a process of creating human-made underground reservoirs to tap into geothermal energy that would otherwise be inaccessible. This is accomplished by injecting fluid deep underground into naturally heated rocks that otherwise lack the fluid flow necessary to draw geothermal energy to the surface.

The site uses testing and R&D to reduce uncertainty and manage risk for commercial development of EGS technologies. FORGE collects 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 provide information that can be used to optimize tools and methods that work well in geothermal environments.

The announcement for up to 17 awards will build on FORGE’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.

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