The Energy Department today announced nearly $4.45 million for four projects supporting early-stage research and development of tools and technologies for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) - which are manmade geothermal reservoirs. The projects seek to improve the performance and increase the cost-effectiveness of EGS through research in zonal isolation.

Zonal isolation technologies can radically improve the performance and economics of EGS. These technologies will provide the ability to target specific zones efficiently and predictably, facilitating the creation of extensive and optimized fracture networks. In turn, this reduces development costs and operational risks associated with EGS development and facilitates increased power generation from fewer wellbores.

EGS has the potential to provide a stable and secure source of renewable power across the nation. Investing in EGS technologies could lead to more than 100 gigawatts (GW) of economically viable, electric generating capacity in the continental United States, which currently stands at 3.8 GW.

The selected projects will focus on researching and developing reliable zonal isolation tools and technologies that present low risk to wellbore integrity or the conductivity of fractures; operate at high temperatures in corrosive, hard rock environments for extended periods of time; and withstand large pressure differentials.

The selected projects include:

  • C-Crete Technologies, LLC (Stafford, TX): Developing graphene nanoribbons embedded in high performance polymers that can be cured and isolate zones downhole through targeted high-energy microwaves.
  • Fervo Energy Company (San Francisco, CA): A collaborative effort with Schlumberger to upgrade their most popular zonal isolation technology (“Copperhead”) with high-temperature components (elastomers) to enable deployment in geothermal environments.
  • Hotrock Energy Research Organization (HERO) (Seattle, WA): Developing a high temperature packer system based on thermally-degradable expanding materials for zonal isolation, including expandable elastomers and foams to temporarily isolate zones downhole.
  • Welltec, Inc. (Katy, TX): Designing an all metal, elastomers-free zonal isolation tool to enable use in higher-temperature, EGS environments.

Learn more about the Geothermal Technologies Office.