DOE Announces $31 Million for Enhanced Geothermal Systems Field Observatory

July 21, 2014 By Karen Henry

geothermal-plant-energy-manageThe US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced up to $31 million to establish the initial phases of the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), a field laboratory dedicated to research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).

EGS are engineered reservoirs created beneath the Earth’s surface where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are created and their size and connectivity increased. These enhanced pathways allow fluid to circulate throughout the hot rock and carry heat to the surface to generate electricity.

In the long term, EGS may enable domestic access to a geographically diverse baseload, and carbon-free energy resource on the order of 100 GW. The FORGE initiative could drive down the cost of geothermal energy, says the DOE.

Research and development at FORGE will focus on techniques to effectively stimulate large fracture networks in various rock types, technologies for imaging and monitoring the evolution of fluid pathways and long-term reservoir sustainability and management techniques.

The initiative comprises three phases. The first two phases focus on selecting a site and an operations team, and preparing and fully characterizing the site. In Phase 1, $2 million will be available over one year for selected teams to perform analysis on the suitability of their proposed site and to develop plans for Phase 2.

Up to $29 million in funding is planned for Phase 2, during which teams will work to fully instrument, characterize and permit candidate sites.

Phase 3 will fund full implementation of FORGE at a single site, managed by a single operations team. This phase will be guided by a collaborative research strategy and executed via annual R&D solicitations designed to improve, optimize and drive down the costs of deploying EGS. In this phase, partners from industry, academia and the national laboratories will have ongoing opportunities to conduct research on areas such as reservoir characterization, reservoir creation and reservoir sustainability.

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