"...The thermal energy beneath our feet is enormous (...) if we could capture even 2% of the thermal energy at depths between 2 and 6 miles, we would have more than 2000 times the yearly amount of energy used in the U.S. ..."
Dr. Joseph Moore, Manager and PI of the FORGE project gives testimony on geothermal to the Subcommittee on Energy of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology at a hearing titled "Water and Geothermal Power: Unearthing the Next Wave of Energy Innovation"
The purpose of this hearing is to examine research, development and demonstration needs for advancing water power and geothermal energy technologies.
Science and Technology Analysis Team Formed for FORGE Initiative.
As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) initiative, a diverse group of experts, referred to as the Science and Technology Analysis Team (STAT), has been formed to support the Utah FORGE team. The STAT is comprised of the following members:
Doug Blankenship (Chair) – Sandia National Laboratories
Joseph Morris (Vice Chair) – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Kate Baker – Independent Consultant
Stephen Hickman – U.S. Geological Survey
Mack Kennedy – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
George King – GEK Engineering PLLC
Ernest Majer – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Affiliate
Jean-Claude Roegiers – Independent Consultant
Eric Sonnenthal – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Herbert Wang – University of Wisconsin, Madison
The STAT provides technical guidance to ensure that the Geothermal Technologies Office’s (GTO) objectives are considered and incorporated into the execution of FORGE and associated research and development (R&D). Specifically, the STAT will assess R&D needs in accordance with GTO roadmaps and goals, establish technical baseline information and performance specifications, review ongoing site characterization and monitoring efforts, develop topics for recurring FORGE R&D solicitations, provide guidance for review and selection of R&D projects, and develop out-year R&D strategies. The STAT will also assess the progress and results of R&D technology and techniques implemented at FORGE and provide input to the Utah FORGE team for the development of annual reports.
In April, the STAT convened for the first time in Salt Lake City. In addition to members of STAT, personnel from DOE and the Utah FORGE team also attended. The meeting served as a powerful reminder of the potential of the FORGE initiative to advance EGS to a place of commercial readiness. Initial public outputs of the meeting will be the release of the first round of FORGE R&D funding opportunity announcements (FOAs), scheduled for later in calendar year 2019.
FORGE will be a dedicated site where the subsurface science and engineering community will be able to develop, test and improve new technologies and techniques directed at the development of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).
The Geothermal Technologies Office would like to thank the University of Utah team and the STAT members for their hard work and leadership. Their contributions serve as a powerful reminder of the potential of advancing EGS to a place of commercial readiness through this groundbreaking initiative!
In March, 2019, the two new vertical wells for monitoring were completed. The shallow well (68-32) was drilled to 970 ft depth, penetrating alluvial sands and gravel. The deeper well (78-32) was drilled to about 3300 ft depth, having intersected the contact with granitic basement rock aroun d 2600 ft depth. Both wells were instrumented with state-of-the-art sensors. Two borehole seismometers were installed into the bottom of well 68-32, whereas an optoelectronic Distributed Acoustic Sensor (DAS) cable was installed into well 78-32.
During the drilling of 78-32, an aquifer test was performed, which proved production of 46°C water from about 700-900 ft depth at 200 gallons per minute. This warm water represents subsurface outflow from Roosevelt Hot Springs, and it is non-potable due to high TDS, making it ideal for future use at the Utah FORGE project.
In April the stimulation phase was completed with great success. Injection tests were run at three distinct depth intervals in the reservoir granite; the first was in the open-hole section, whereas the other two were at slightly higher level within the cased section of the well.
During these tests, fluid flow and fracture opening were detected by both the Schlumberger geophone string array and the DAS cable in well 78-32. Televiewer logs were run in the open-hole section of 58-32 to assess the injection test effects. All of the data are now being processed.
The snow is receding and the drilling of two new monitor wells for the Utah FORGE laboratory starts this week. The first well is being drilled to 1000’ and the second well will go to 3000’. Both are situated near the existing deep well, 58-32, that was completed in 2017. The new wells being much shallower, should be completed by early April, when they will be instrumented with state of the art sensors. During the drilling process, geologists and engineers will be on site, in order to provide important information about rock types and shallow groundwater resources.
For background, this phase of work involves bringing the site up to readiness to drill the two deep wells later in the year that will become the centerpiece of the FORGE laboratory. In the short term, activities are focused on:
installation of a permanent seismic monitoring network
building infrastructure (power, site office, communications hub, upgraded roads)
mini-flow injection testing and interpretation of results
acquiring additional field data to refine geoscientific understanding
convening of the Science & Technology Analysis Team (STAT).
Following a three-year, five-way competitive process, the U.S. Department of Energy has selected the Energy and Geosciences Institute (EGI) at the University of Utah to develop a geothermal laboratory near Milford, Utah. The laboratory, called Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) will focus on developing enhanced geothermal systems which could greatly expand the nation’s capacity to produce geothermal energy. The FORGE award will consist of up to $140 million over five years.
“We thank the U.S. Department of Energy for this exceptional opportunity,” said John McLennan, co-principal investigator of Utah’s FORGE team. “Having this research program in Utah would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of Utah Governor Herbert; Dr. Laura Nelson, the Governor’s Energy Advisor; the Office of Energy Development; the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration; and the Utah congressional delegation in Washington. We appreciate the assistance that we have received from State representatives and from Beaver County and from Milford. At the University, strong support has come from the President of the University and the central administration as well as from the College of Engineering and the Energy & Geoscience Institute.”
“Utah is proud to provide national leadership in advancing energy innovation that will help drive affordable, baseload, renewable power to market,” said Gov. Gary R. Herbert, in a statement from the Governor’s Office of Energy Development. “This will put Utah on the map as a world leader for geothermal research as well as expand geothermal production here in rural Utah and throughout the world.”
“The University of Utah is grateful for Senator Orrin Hatch’s leadership and his tireless efforts to advance important scientific research,” said University of Utah President Ruth Watkins, in a statement from Hatch’s office. “Because of his efforts to help secure this FORGE grant, the University of Utah will continue to lead the Nation as the preeminent institution for researching the commercial production of geothermal energy.”
The FORGE project involves drilling two 8,000-ft long wells in an area north of Milford, Beaver County, Utah. Cold water will be pumped into one well and heated by the rocks as it circulates, then will be pumped out of a second well. After the heat is extracted at the surface, the cooled, circulated water will be cycled back into the first well. The laboratory will use non-potable groundwater that cannot be used for agriculture or human consumption.
Currently, geothermal power plants need two things: hot rocks at depth, which can be found practically anywhere on the planet, and hot groundwater that can be extracted at the surface. Enhanced geothermal systems like FORGE could create their own hot groundwater, making it possible to place a geothermal power plant nearly anywhere.
Read the U.S. Department of Energy press release here.
NPR All Things Considered special on the FORGE project entitled 'The Forgotten Renewable: Geothermal Energy Production Heats Up'. Three and a half hours east of Los Angeles lies the Salton Sea, a manmade oasis in the heart of the Mojave Desert. It was created in 1905, when a canal broke and the Colorado River flooded the desert for more than a year. The Sea became a tourist hotspot in the 1950's, perfect for swimming, boating, and kayaking. But now, people are coming here looking for something else.
Jim Turner is the chief operating officer of Controlled Thermal Resources, an energy company from Australia. On a hill overlooking the Salton Sea, he points out a patch of land that will someday house his company's first power plant, named Hell's Kitchen.
"We're standing on top of what is probably the most robust geothermal resource in the United States," he explains.
Geothermal energy uses the earth's natural heat to create electricity. While there are several different ways to accomplish this, the most common is to take super-heated water from geothermal hot spots and pipe it to the surface. It then turns into steam and spins a turbine, which generates electricity.
It's completely renewable, and generates clean energy around the clock, unlike wind and solar.
"You think of renewable energy as a house, solar is the roof and the wind is the walls," says Jason Czapla, principal engineer for Controlled Thermal Resources. "But geothermal's the foundation, and what California did is it built the walls and the roof, but on wild, windy days it blows too much rain on the roof [and] that house falls down. Well, the Salton Sea is this opportunity for California to fix that."
The company wants to develop 1,000 megawatts of electricity here over the next decade. They say that could power about 800,000 homes. And for a state that's aiming to get half its electricity from renewable sources, that's no small number.
"Our development coincides with the state's target, 2030 being the ultimate goal getting to 50 percent," says Czapla. "And our goal is to build up that 1,000 megawatts and help them increase the renewable energy portfolio."
The Forgotten Renewable: Geothermal Energy Production Heats Up
Last week the Utah FORGE project completed a two- and three-dimensional seismic surveys to further characterize the project area’s buried granite reservoir. Specifically, the survey may help to identify any buried faults that might be zones of fluid flow.
Seismic surveys create subsurface images by generating, recording, and analyzing sound waves that travel through the Earth (such waves are also called seismic waves). Density changes between rock or soil layers reflect the waves back to the surface, and how quickly and strongly the waves are reflected back indicates what lies below.
For the Utah FORGE survey, vehicle-mounted vibrator plates (called vibroseis trucks) generated the source waves and a grid of geophones recorded them. The survey included two 2D surveys that were 2.5 miles long and included approximately 160 source points and geophone receivers each, and a 3D survey that covered 7 square miles and included 1,100 source points and 1,700 geophone receivers. The data is now being processed to generate a three-dimensional map of the subsurface reservoir.