Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Energy Department Announces $7 Million for Research on Subsurface Stress and Lost Circulation in Geothermal Drilling

March 28, 2019

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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $7 million toward the research and development (R&D) of innovative subsurface geothermal technologies. DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) will fund projects that will focus on improving geothermal drilling efficiency and cost reduction by addressing two of the most significant barriers: state of stress and lost circulation events.

The subsurface state of stress dictates fracture networks that provide the required permeability for a geothermal reservoir, so an increased understanding of the stress state is valuable for siting wells during geothermal energy development. Lost circulation events (LCEs) can occur during drilling when fluids pumped from the rig through downhole drilling equipment are “lost” and flow into geological formations instead of returning to the surface to complete a circulation path. Researching and developing innovative technologies that tackle state of stress and LCEs issues will reduce geothermal exploration and drilling costs, making geothermal a more viable and accessible energy source.

Currently, the United States is the world leader in installed geothermal capacity with more than 3.8 gigawatts online. One key to unlocking domestic geothermal potential is to reduce the cost of drilling operations, which can account for up to 50% of geothermal exploration and development costs.

GTO plans to provide funding in two topic areas:

Topic 1: Development of technologies for characterizing, monitoring, and predicting state of stress for geothermal exploration and drilling; and
Topic 2: Development of new technologies for predicting and mitigating lost circulation events in geothermal drilling.

Applicants must first submit a concept paper by April 26, 2019 at 5 p.m. EST to be eligible to submit a full application. Please view the FOA and application submission instructions for more information.